Romantic love can be complicated with all of its elated feelings and fantasies of happily ever after. The College of Charleston Opera will explore one man’s outlandish quest for love during performances of The Tales of Hoffmann, Friday, Feb. 24, and Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

Written by Jacques Offenbach in 1881, The Tales of Hoffmann is a fantastical opera based on the short stories of German writer and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann, who in Offenbach’s telling, finds himself entangled in bizarre and absurd romantic snares. Performances, which will be sung in French with English supertitles and presented alongside musicians from the Charleston Symphony, will take place in the Sottile Theatre (44 George St.) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online through the George Street Box Office.

As the titular character, Seth Younglove ’22 is excited to introduce audiences to this work and lead them on an amazing – and somewhat heartbreaking – journey.

seth younglove as E.T.A. Hoffmann

Seth Younglove as E.T.A. Hoffmann (Photos by Catie Cleveland)

“I hope audiences take away the sheer storytelling power that opera can produce,” he says. “The Tales of Hoffmann is a tragic story of a lost man who can’t seem to appreciate those truly close to him: The music that Offenbach wrote is what gives this story justice.”

Younglove, who graduated in May of 2022 as a double major in music (vocal performance) and theatre (performance), is in his first year of the Department of Music‘s Post-Baccalaureate Artist Residency in Performance program, which supports musicians who have completed their musical training at the undergraduate level but want to continue their studies while preparing for professional performance careers or graduate school.

“My long-term goal is to continue searching for young artist programs across the country in order to build my repertoire and meet others in the field. Making connections and learning different views/techniques is what creates a well-rounded performer,” he says. “After that, who knows? As a performer, it’s important to stay flexible for what the future may hold: Maybe I’ll get my master’s and teach, or maybe I’ll continue traveling around the world as a performer.”

The College Today caught up with Younglove to find out why the story of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s love life is so complicated, what it’s like preparing to be the lead in an opera and how this experience is helping him prepare for the future.

students perform tales of hoffmann

Younglove as Hoffmann shares a fantastical story of one of his muses in ‘The Tales of Hoffmann.’

Tell us about the adventures you embark on as E.T.A. Hoffmann?

In The Tales of Hoffmann, we get to explore the mind and fantastical stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann, a famous German musicologist and writer of the 19th century. The opera starts with Hoffmann and his friends at their favorite bar, where he is telling them stories of his three lovers. We follow him and his best friend, Nicklausse, delving into these stories and reflecting on how Hoffmann is shaped from them. Are the stories based on fact or fiction? That is the question!

What do you like about playing Hoffmann?

What I love about playing Hoffmann is creating this through-line human being that is so broken from the start, yet hides it through the mask of being an “entertainer.” It isn’t until we get through his stories and into the epilogue that we see how truly shattered Hoffmann is. He is like many of us: trying to fulfill this sense of yearning within him, yet there is always something stopping him.

How has the opera program prepared you to take on this role?

I came to the College as a freshman with zero experience as an opera singer. Throughout the last few years, the professors have given me the building blocks to create the type of performer I want to be. I was given a variety of different types of music and roles throughout my time in my undergraduate degree that were like stepping stones up to Hoffmann. I love performing opera because it is the most visceral form of the voice: pure and open sound, mixed with storytelling.

How do these full-scale operas prepare vocal majors for a career in the performing arts? 

Producing these large-scale operas allows us performers to truly understand the skill set and endurance required to be an opera singer. Most colleges and universities in the country very rarely are able to do something like this, especially for undergrads. CofC Opera gives us the utility belt we need to be one step ahead of everyone else in those audition rooms.