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In the first act, which is really a prologue, Hoffmann, a young poet,
enters the tavern of Luther to meet his companions, and drinks to drown
his sorrows. They think he is in love, but he answers, all that is past,
and tells the story of his three loves.
ACT II. OLYMPIA.
A physician's drawing room. Spalanzani has invited a large company to
witness the accomplishments of his daughter, Olympia. She sings to
general applause, and Hoffmann falls desperately in love with her. As
the guests go to supper, Hoffmann tells her of his passion and thinks he
finds a responsive echo in her. There is dancing, and she waltzes him
off his feet. A Dr. Coppelius comes in to say he has been swindled by
Spalanzani. He slips into Olympia's room, from which a noise of breaking
is heard. Coppelius, out of revenge, has smashed Olympia. She was only
an automaton. Hoffmann is astonished.
ACT III. GIULIETTA.
At Venice, in the house of Giulietta, beloved of Schlemil, who takes the
arrival of Hoffmann very ungraciously. Hoffmann cares nothing for
Giulietta, but she is bribed by Dapertutto to make Hoffmann love her,
and she succeeds by making him believe, that he is her ideal. But as a
proof of his love she wants Hoffmann to get the key of her room away
from Schlemil. Hoffmann demands the key; Schlemil tells him to come and
take it, and they fight. Schlemil is killed. Hoffmann takes the key and
rushes to Giulietta's room, and finding nobody, comes back, only to see
her riding off in her gondola, laughing at him, and with her arms around
another man's neck. Hoffmann is disgusted.
ACT IV. ANTONIA.
Antonia has been told by her father, Crespel, to sing no more. When
Hoffmann, who has long loved her, comes, he wonders why, but he soon
learns by overhearing a conversation between Crespel and an evil person
called Doctor Miracle that Antonia is afflicted with consumption. He
then begs her also not to sing, and she promises him. When Hoffmann
goes, Miracle comes in and tells her it is all nonsense, to sing as much
as she likes; but she will not break her promise to Hoffmann. Miracle
then causes the ghost of Antonia's mother to appear, and to her prayers
the girl yields. Miracle urges her on and on, until she is utterly
exhausted. She falls dying, and her father receives her last breath.
Hoffmann is heartbroken.
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