DVD0024. THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, Filmed 1951, w.Beecham Cond. Margherita Grandi, Robert Rounseville, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann & Léonide Massine, featuring Pamela Brown, Ludmilla Tchérina & Ann Ayars. The Criterion Collection 317. - 037429126226
"The Tales of Hoffmann is a 1951 British Technicolor comic opera film written, produced and directed by the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger working under the umbrella of their production company, The Archers. It is an adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann, itself based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann.
The opera film stars Robert Rounseville, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann and Léonide Massine, and features Pamela Brown, Ludmilla Tchérina and Ann Ayars. Only Rounseville and Ayars sang their own roles.
It uses a soundtrack recorded for the film conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham; principal singers apart from Rounseville and Ayars were Dorothy Bond, Margherita Grandi, Monica Sinclair and Bruce Dargavel; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays. The film's production team includes cinematographer Christopher Challis and production and costume designer Hein Heckroth, who was nominated for two 1952 Academy Awards for his work.
In the later years of his partnership with Pressburger, Powell became interested in what he termed 'a composed film', a marriage of image to operatic music. The finale of Black Narcissus and the ballet sequence of The Red Shoes were earlier steps toward his goal.
The Tales of Hoffmann is an achievement of this ideal, as the entire opera was pre-recorded to create the soundtrack, and the movie was edited to the rhythms of the music. The production is completely without dialogue and, with the exception of Robert Rounseville and Ann Ayars, none of the actors did their own singing. Some of the singers had established careers in Britain at the time. Grahame Clifford, for example, had been a leading comedian with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company for several years, and Monica Sinclair was fast becoming an audience favourite at Covent Garden; she would later become one of the company's most popular artists of the next two decades. The acting (especially by Helpmann) is highly stylised and similar to that of the silent film era.
Each tale is marked by a primary colour denoting its theme. 'The Tale of Olympia', set in Paris, has yellow contours highlighting the farcical nature and tone of the first act. 'The Tale of Giulietta' is a hellish depiction of Venice, where dark colours, especially red, are used. The final tale, set in Greece, uses different shades of blue, alluding to its sad nature. The set design is deliberately made to look artificial with the costumes similarly stylised. The opening scene of the 'Tale of Giulietta' (where Giulietta performs the 'Barcarolle', the most famous theme of the opera) is staged on a gondola which moves through deliberately artificial Venetian canals, although it does not seem to actually move on the water.
The Tales of Hoffmann was in production from 116 July 1950 at Shepperton Studios in Shepperton, Surrey, in the UK."