Release date: 5/13/2013

San Francisco Opera Presents Offenbach's Les Contes D'Hoffmann Starring Matthew Polenzani and Natalie Dessay in New Co-production Created by Laurent Pelly and Chantal Thomas June 5-July 6, War Memorial Opera House

Angela Brower to Replace Alice Coote as Nicklausse

Also Starring Christian Van Horn, Hye Jung Lee, Irene Roberts and Jacqueline Piccolino; Conducted by Patrick Fournillier

Photos Available
 San Francisco Opera presents Jacques Offenbach’s dramatic masterpiece Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) at the War Memorial Opera House, opening on June 5 with eight subsequent performances through July 6. American tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role opposite Natalie Dessay as Antonia, Christian Van Horn as the four villains, Angela Brower as Nicklausse, Hye Jung Lee as Olympia, Irene Roberts as Giulietta and Jacqueline Piccolino as Stella. Patrick Fournillier conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Laurent Pelly directs this new co-production with Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and L’Opéra National de Lyon. The San Francisco Opera Chorus is under the direction of Ian Robertson.
The team assembled to lead this new interpretation of Offenbach’s tribute to German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann includes director and costume designer Laurent Pelly, set designer Chantal Thomas and conductor Patrick Fournillier. Of the production premiere in Barcelona earlier this year, Spanish newspaper El Periodico wrote, “Of the many versions that have been made of Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Offenbach, the Laurent Pelly is one of the best, with all the ingredients of a fantastic drama.” This new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann takes inspiration from the haunting, dreamlike paintings of early 20th Century Belgian symbolist artist Leon Spilliaert. Sung in French using a newly revised libretto version assembled by Agathe Mélinand and Laurent Pelly and based on the integral edition edited by Jean-Christophe Keck and Michael Kaye, Les Contes d’Hoffmann is presented in three acts with a prologue and an epilogue.
French director and costume designer Laurent Pelly enjoys a career as one of the world’s most sought-after directors of both theater and opera. His highly-acclaimed production of La Fille du Régiment has appeared at San Francisco Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Scenic designer Chantal Thomas made her San Francisco Opera debut with 2009’s La Fille du Régiment and has collaborated with Laurent Pelly on more than thirty productions, including theater, opera, and musicals. Maestro Fournillier made his San Francisco Opera debut with 2010’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a work he has led with great success at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet, Milan’s La Scala, and in Valencia. His recent engagements include Suor Angelica and La Voix Humaine with Seattle Opera and Carmen at Zurich Opera.
Distinguished American lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role of Hoffmann, the sensitive poet who searches for love yet repeatedly finds it lies just beyond his reach. Most recently seen in San Francisco as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Polenzani has previously appeared as Hoffmann at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Of that performance, the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Hoffmann is a perfect fit for his voice and artistry at this stage of his international career. One had only to marvel at the stamina, tonal reserves, ease in the upper range and bell-like French vowels he brought to this daunting part.” Other recent engagements include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at Los Angeles Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera; Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore and Ernesto in Don Pasquale at the Met; and des Grieux in Manon at Milan’s La Scala.
Renowned French soprano Natalie Dessay, who captivated San Francisco audiences in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in 2008, returns to appear as the young singer Antonia, a role she recently debuted in the debut of Pelly and Thomas’ new production in Barcelona. She has also sung the role of Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann in Lausanne, Vienna, Orange, Paris and at the Met. Some career highlights include Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, and the Salzburg Festival; the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte at Paris Opera; and Morgana in Alcina in Paris, the Salzburg Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. In April 2013 Dessay appeared as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare at the Metropolitan Opera, a performance of which The Wall Street Journal wrote: “Ms. Dessay was astonishing, singing with lyricism, sparkle and . . . projecting Cleopatra’s emotional range from conniving flirtiness to abject despair.”
American mezzo-soprano Angela Brower makes her San Francisco Opera debut as the Muse, disguised as Hoffmann’s closest friend Nicklausse. She replaces the previously announced Alice Coote who has withdrawn for personal reasons. Brower comes to San Francisco fresh from her success in the role last season at the Bayerische Staastoper opposite Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazón— a performance that was broadcast on European television and captured for DVD. An ensemble member of the Bayerische Staatsoper, additional highlights of her time in Munich have been Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Hansel in Hänsel und Gretel, and Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
American bass Christian Van Horn returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage for his role debut as the four villains who ruin Hoffmann’s quest for love—Coppélius, Dapertutto, Dr. Miracle and Lindorff. Van Horn made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2010 as the King of Egypt in Aida and has since returned as the Bailiff in Werther, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, Timur in Turandot and Angelotti in Tosca. Recently, Van Horn appeared as Colline in La Bohème at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, Zuniga in Carmen at the Salzburg Festival and with the Berlin Philharmonic, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Banquo in Macbeth in Geneva and the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro with Russia’s Perm Opera.
Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee, who recently thrilled Bay Area audiences in her San Francisco Opera debut as Madame Mao in Nixon in China, appears as Olympia, an automated doll with whom Hoffmann falls in love while wearing magic glasses. She is an alumna of the 2010 Merola Opera Program, where she was heard as Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore. The soprano represented Korea in 2011’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and has recently appeared as Papagena (Die Zauberflöte) and Lisa (La Sonnambula) with Florida Grand Opera.
American mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts makes her Company debut as the courtesan Giulietta. In the current season she makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in two productions: Le Nozze di Figaro and Parsifal. She also appears as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with Syracuse Opera. Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino makes her Company debut as Stella, the prima donna, replacing the previously announced Jennifer Cherest.  A 2012 participant of the Merola Opera Program, Piccolino has joined the 2013 class of Adler Fellows and will also return to the 2013 Merola Opera Program to sing Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro. A former Studio Artist with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, Piccolino has appeared in mainstage productions of Le Donne Curiose, Sweeney Todd, and Les Contes d’Hoffmann with that company.
Sung in French with English supertitles, the nine performances of Les Contes d’Hoffmann are scheduled for June 5 (7:30 p.m.), June 11 (8 p.m.), June 14 (8 p.m.), June 20 (7:30 p.m.),
June23 (2 p.m.), June 27 (7:30 p.m.), June 30 (2 p.m.), July 3 (7:30 p.m.) and July 6 (8 p.m.), 2013.
Tickets for performances of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the War Memorial Opera House are priced from $22 to $340 and may be purchased at or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330]. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit and
Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Les Contes d’Hoffmann and San Francisco Opera’s Summer 2013 season, please visit