The libretto for Gounod's tragic opera was written by Jules Barbier (1825-1901) in collaboration with Michel Carré (1821-1872). Both men were prolific librettists and often collaborated. In fact, together they penned libretti for several of Gounod's operas including FAUST, LE MEDECIN MALGRÉ LUI (The Doctor in Spite of Himself) and LA REINE DE SABA (The Queen of Sheba) and for three operas by Ambroise Thomas, including HAMLET and MIGNON. The pair co-wrote a play LES CONTES FANTASTIQUES D'HOFFMANN (The Fantastical Tales of Hoffmann) on which Offenbach's opera was based.
Barbier alone wrote libretti for Offenbach's THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (after Carré's death), for Meyerbeer's DINORAH and for Victor Massé's GALATHÉE. Michel Carré wrote the libretto for Gounod's opera MIREILLE and collaborated with Eugène Cormon on the libretto for Bizet's LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES (The Pearl Fishers).