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From: "The Tales of Hoffmann, a study of the film"
by Monk Gibbon, Saturn Press, London, 1951

Ann Ayars
Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

She was chosen to act the part only after she had come to England and already begun to record it. She came, she was seen, she conquered. Perhaps, like Rounseville, she crossed the Atlantic with hope already in her heart. For if you have played a part often enough on the stage it is natural that you should prefer to do more than merely 'ghost' it for a film. Not that she is pre-disposed in favour of films. A lot of time wasted to no vocal purpose, under contract, seven years ago, in California, made her vow never to have anything to do with that world again. She has broken her vow and we are the beneficiaries.

She was born in Los Angeles and she has music on both sides of her family, for her father, who is Italian-American, teaches singing and her mother the piano. Before she was nine years old she had the privilege of spending three years in Milan and heard no less than 27 operas at La Scala. If her conscious mind is not steeped in grand opera, as it probably is, there must be a good deal of it floating around her unconscious, merely from those days alone. Like Rounseville and like the famous Tommy Tucker, she has sung for her supper in a variety of ways all over America. If he has tried his hand in night clubs, vaudeville, operettas, and musical comedies, she has toured with "Rio Rita", sung for two seasons with a civic light opera company and been a soloist with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. But the merit of the voice in each case meant that before long they gravitated towards grand opera. Ann Ayars made her New York debut as Jafade in "Ariadne auf Naxos" with the New York City Center Opera Company in 1947. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. She has sung Mimi at the Philadelphia La Scala, she has sung at Glyndbourne and at the Edinburgh Festival, and she has just finished a twenty five concert, coast to coast tour in America.

As Antonia she carries us straight away into the world of Hoffmann, the writer, intended. Crespel is a fanatic of matters musical himself and his daughter has music in her blood on her mother's side also. From the moment when Antonia first sits at the harpsichord and her fingers pass over the keys we are made to feel this. And when her lover comes Antonia pours forth her heart in the tune they had once made their own. Just as we think of Olympia in terms of her dancing and of Giulietta in terms of all the wiles of the consumate actress, so we tend to think of Antonia in terms of song. She is not only tragedy, but melody incarnate.

The captious may say that Ann Ayars is insufficiently cadaverous for a consumptive but a lung patient is not necessarily wasted in appearance and the actress has conveyed, what is far more essential, that feverish intensity, the sense of frenetic energy and hope that is really a much truer indication of her illness. We feel that Hoffmann is in love with Antonia, we feel that she unquestionably is deeply in love with him. And in all the weird and fantastic events which follow the arrival of Dr. Miracle, Ann Ayars' acting makes convincing and terrifying what very easily may have become absurd. When, like a trapped wild animal she rushes frantically from one corner of the room to another we are getting the very quintessence of Hoffmann the tale-spinner. This is as neo-Gothic as anything in the whole film. She and Crespel together might have walked straight out of his pages.

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