Bass-baritone Nicolas Cavallier may not be a dancer -- at least he may not make a living as a dancer -- but tonight he gave a stupendous set of physical characterizations in his portrayals of the four villains in "The Tales of Hoffmann." Taut and elegant, he never once came close to the hammy. Had he been born in Denmark, he could have been one of the great Bournonville character dancer/actors. I don't remember his singing separate from his acting: it was all of one piece. It really doesn't get any better.
William Burden, from whose throat gold poured all night, threaded together the facets of Hoffmann the lover, as different as the women in each act, into a powerful Epilogue. Kate Lindsey was deft as the Muse and Niklausse. Norah Ansellem sang all four soprano roles. She'd sung Antonia before, and that seems where her voice was most comfortable, but it was really interesting to see her explore the upper and lower registers through Olympia and Giulietta.
In a ballet connection, Eric Neuville, who sang Nathaniel in the Prologue, is married to retiring PNB dancer, Liora (Reshef) Neuville.
Chris Alexander's direction is a sheer delight, visually and dramatically, and he directed, and Yves Abel conducted, with deft hands.
This production is inadvertently Speight Jenkins' last, since he cancelled "Die Meistersinger" for the summer, replaced by the third Wagner Competition. It's really a great production to end with, however sad it was to lose the Wagner because of the economic realities.
Jenkins made a short speech after the initial curtain calls, in which the cast was joined by conductor Abel and then Alexander and two members of the production team. He told three stories about his time as General Director, and he told us in the Q&A that he has three different stories for each of the performances. It's impossible for me to think of Seattle Opera without him.