The Israeli Opera Offenbach: Tales of Hoffmann Tel Aviv Opera House February 19 The Israel Opera's performance of "Tales of Hoffmann" did not do Offenbach's masterpiece justice. Offenbach's opera came too close to operetta under Nicolas Joel's direction. This was largely due to Ezio Frigerio's stage effects - an unnecessary steam engine in Spalanzani's salon, a superfluous horse-driven coach in Crespel's living room, and a circus-like giant wheel. All were intended to be amusing, but were merely gimmicks in the end. Outstanding stars were cast in the main roles and not-so-distinguished performers performed the minor ones. As Olympia, soprano Ekaterina Lekhina's bright and acrobatic coloraturas were breathtaking and appropriately doll-like. Nicoletta Ardelean's enchanting soprano was a delight in the role of Antonia, though occasionally too strong and assertive for this fragile character. Soprano Larissa Tetuev was irresistibly seductive as Giulietta. Vladimir Braun's impressive bass-baritone failed to convey the demonic character of Lindorf/Coppelius/Doctor Miracle/Dappertutto. Their evilness is satanic, and therefore aloof, cold, manipulative and untouched by human emotion. Braun, instead, was a mere human evildoer, emotionally involved with his victims and too theatrical. A disappointing exception to the principle of superstars in the main roles was Hoffmann. For the title role, unfortunately, Antonio Nagore's appealing tenor was apparently considered a sufficient asset, despite his lack of emotional intensity. Without this, however, the very essence of Hoffmann is missed, and he simply is not Hoffmann. Noteworthy among the minor roles was baritone Noah Briger as an authoritative Crespel, and tenor Guy Mannheim who displayed considerable comic talent as Franz. Nicklausse, Hoffmann's better and sublimated self, was reduced to a mere clownish figure by Elena Belfiore's antics and unsteady mezzo-soprano. Frederic Chaslin's conducting of the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion was professional and accurate, providing a musical background appropriately, though without contributing much of the score's excitement and tension.