Hänsel und Gretel
THE LEGENDARY OPERA OF HAENSEL ET GRAETEL
The darkly humorous opera of Haensel et graetel from the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck explores the famous folk tale from an operatic perspective.
The libetto was written by his sister, Adelheid Wett, and brought the folk story into the opera houses of Europe, and later the whole world.
First performed on 23 December 1893, the opera is closely associated with the Christmas period although its influence can be experienced throughout the year. Various interpretations of the work have been produced, with live recordings, film adaptations and new versions bringing the work to a fresh generation of audiences.
Haensel et graetel is set in the central Germanic forests and woodland of medieval times. The opera is based on the Grimm Brothers' famous fairy tale that addresses eternal issues of innocence and perceptions of danger and evil.
Concerning the eponymous young brother and sister as they attempt to thwart the cannibalistic desires of a forest witch, the opera shares the scope of many fairy tales in presenting dark psychological concepts within a more light hearted mood and setting.
The scenes in the opening act set up the central dangers for Hansel and Gretel, the brother and sister of the title. When their mother Gertrud discovers that they have been dancing instead of doing housework, she send them off to the forest to look for strawberries. When their father discovers where his wife has sent them he is shocked - the forest is the home of the Gingerbread Witch.
Both he and his wife immediately set off to search for their children.
The second act explores the confusion and fear of Hansel and Gretel as they set off on their task to collect strawberries.
Filling up their baskets, Hansel and Gretel eventually squabble over the fruit and end up eating or losing them all. As night falls, they are approached by the Sandman, who puts them to sleep with magic sand in their eyes. As they sleep, fourteen angels come down from Heaven to protect them in their slumber.
The brother and sister wake up in the forest to the magic dew sprinkling of the dew fairy. As they come around, they notice a wonderful gingerbread house decorated with all kinds of sweets and chocolate. Unable to resist, they begin taking small pieces of the house to nibble on.
The Gingerbread Witch comes out of her house and catches Hansel. Through sheer wit Gretel manages to delay the witches's plans to turn them into gingerbread. She and her brother carefully fool the witch and trap her in the exploding gingerbread oven.
All of the gingerbread children are turned back into real children and Hansel and Gretel return home with their eventually arriving father Peter.
THE MAIN ROLES
Hansel, a boy, mezzo-soprano
Gretel, a girl, soprano
The Gingerbread Witch, mezzo-soprano
Peter, broom-maker, baritone
Gertrud, his wife, mezzo-soprano
Sandman, the Sleep Fairy, soprano
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Hänsel und Gretel | 8 Performances
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