Hansel and Gretel; märchenspiel (fairy tale) in three acts, music by Engelbert Humperdinck, libretto in German by Adelheid Wette, after the fairy tale Hänsel und Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, directed and designed by Antony McDonald, orchestra conducted by Sebastian Weigle, Royal Opera, Thursday 13th December 2018, reviewed by Leslie Jones
Hansel and Gretel was premiered at Weimar on 23rd December 1893, with Richard Strauss, no less, conducting. As Antony McDonald observes, it is ubiquitous in German opera houses at this time of the year (Opera interview, Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, Dec 9th 2018). McDonald’s new production is conceived as “an enchanting piece” for families, particularly for “first-time opera goers” (Official Programme). Several commentators think that it should therefore be sung in English.
This latest version of the fairy tale opera has its sinister side. The opening setting is ostensibly idyllic. We behold a mountain chalet with an oven and a chimney emitting smoke. It is supper time. Hansel and Gretel and their parents Gertrud and Peter are gathered round the kitchen table. The Little White House and the Little Red House at Birkenau, former farmhouses, came to mind. Continue reading