I’m flipping through channels and good ol’ PBS has a man, dressed like an ol’ timey scientist, singing. I’m intrigued. “PBS is showing Dr. Horrible?

And it’s an opera, now?”

But then there were…puppets? Dolls? Clowns? Nekkid ladies?

It was a glorious mish-mash of classical opera and the most burner-esque production I’ve ever seen…carnivale-y steampunk garish…awesome.

The Associated Press’ Ronald Blum wrote: “Sher’s dark new staging, which reflects the opera through a prism of Kafka and Fellini, will not be to everyone’s liking.

“There are Venetian courtesans prancing about in nothing more than high heels, panties, pasties and jewelry. They look like Vegas showgirls. Drunken bar revelers pretend they are dancing dwarfs who appear to be wearing Jewish prayer shawls.

“Throw in some clowns in white face with large red noses, various women in corsets and powdered wigs, and a few skeleton heads donning Carnival masks. At times the famous barcarole resembled the orgy from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ “

I texted my friend, “science puppet opera on pbs!!” while I tried to think of the title – the one about the doll! Starts with a C! But it wasn’t Coppelia.

That’s a ballet, for one thing. It’s “The Tales of Hoffman,”  by Jacques Offenbach.

Wildly popular for his politically satirical and sexually “risque” operettas (imagine SNL set to music), Offenbach had developed an inferiority complex towards the great 19th Century Grand Opera composers such as Meyerbeer, Verdi, Wagner and Gounod, who were all the rage in Paris.

“Tales” is about the poet Hoffmann, who lets his unsuccessful love affairs get in the way of his work. His muse, who later appears as his friend Nicklausse, tries to keep him true to his art but in vain. (click for the full plot)

I think my jaw might have actually dropped, when Kathleen Kim (above) sang “The Doll Song.”

I found footage of Rachele Gilmore.

Unfortunately I had to go to bed (and the PBS/airing version doesn’t include the scandalous final scene), but apparently it all ends nice and bloody and tragic, Poetry takes Hoffman back from all his failed loves FOREVAH!


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