During my operatic phase (when I was in my mid to late teens), I attended a six-week opera workshop where we performed Hoffman. It's an opera guaranteed to have tremendous appeal to any neurotic teen-aged girl such as I was: the story of besotted writer whose angry and neglected muse takes revenge on him by afflicting him with jealousy against a rival and then---at the crucial moment---leaves him so drunk that the rival's triumph is assured.
His lover is a beautiful opera singer (Stella) who knows just how to mistreat an annoyingly impoverished romantic poet, with nothing to offer but his obsession. The story opens at a tavern, where Hoffman gathers with a group of hard-drinking university students (that hasn't changed since Offenbach's day). Urged by his posse to tell them the story of his past loves, he tells them three: the first, a funny story of a man who falls in love with a mechanical doll (that's right: a mechanical doll); the second, a melodramatic story of man who falls in love with a jewelry-craving soul-stealing courtesan who is enslaved by a giant diamond and an vil magician; and the third, a dark and disturbing story of a man who falls in love with a good and virtuous but sickly (and doomed) singer. (Offenbach had the last two scenes reversed, but I prefer to have the tragic story last.)
The first two women are heartless (the first literally; the second metaphorically); the third has heart problems in the more literal sense.
In each story, the course of the hero's love is doomed from the start by, interfered with, and ultimately defeated by the evil machinations of a villain who is in each instance the doppelganger of his rival, Count Lindorf. Naturally, the leading characters in each story are played by Hoffman, his Muse (who appears as his sidekick, Nicklausse), the beautiful object of his desire, and his rival. Each story becomes darker and more somber and more heart-breaking than the one before.
The play ends with Hoffman dead drunk at his table. The love interest cruises by on the arm of the successful rival and flings a rose at him. Nobody's happy about this except the triumphant Muse. Enough with the mooning around after looooooove; he's a poet; he should work it all out in poetry.
The clips that follow are from the second tale, set in Venice. Hoffman (Placido Domingo) is in love with the gorgeous courtesan Giulietta (Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa); but---helas!---many jealousies and evil schemes are already in motion eve from the story's beautiful and sensuous and---in this instance, visually lavish--- opening number (the famous 'Barcarolle'). "Joyous night of love, shine down on our raptures!" Back when I was 16, I really enjoyed my little role in the chorus: I got to wear a gorgeous salmon-colored brocade gown embellished with gold. I also got to kiss (pretend kissing, but still) a seriously good-looking college boy, a very beautiful tenor who strongly resembled a Botticelli angel.
One thing I like about this Giulietta (Agnes Baltsa) is that she looks very much like the girl who sang the part in our little production.
(Note: The explanation of this scene at You Tube applies to Scene III (Antonia's Tale), not this one. The singers are Giulietta (the love interest) and Nicklaus (Hoffman's sidekick, and the Muse in disguise).
The sad ending: the evil rival beguiles and hypnotizes Giulietta with jewelry---a gigantic diamond that she values much more than her broken-hearted Hoffman, who initiates the sextet with "Alas! My heart is broken again!" The other characters, including Giulietta herself, jump in with their complaints, stories, and observations. Giulietta makes it about as clear as she can that she prefers her diamond, her evil hunchback---and her soul-stealin' ways---to Hoffman. I love the sneering, defiant look she gives him as she yanks her hand away from him. Diamonds are a girl's best friend!
Finally, the whole chorus joins in, commiserating with Hoffman's abject condition and warning him that Giulietta's lovers sooner or later come to very bad ends (Hoffman has just murdered one of them....)
Underneath it you can hear the strains of the opening number the Barcarolle. It's pretty sensational.