Hansel und Gretel (2 CD)
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Hansel und Gretel (2 CD)
When Engelbert Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid turned the Grimm brothers’ fairytale of Hänsel und Gretel into a short libretto for her children, she asked her composer-brother to set the words to music. The resulting performance in their family home delighted Humperdinck’s two young nieces and this domestic success soon became a fully-fledged opera destined for the international stage.
The imaginative score expertly encapsulates the life of children, from exuberant dances and witty exchanges to the sweet solemnity of the Evening Prayer. Their journey into the forest is wonderfully captured in the music; as they move further into the ever-threatening woods, the music becomes increasingly opaque, mirroring the darkening of the trees. When the sandman appears, the sinister theme that had heralded his arrival is interrupted, as his harmlessness is revealed, and he leads the children into a peaceful sleep. The menacing theme returns with the arrival of the wicked gingerbread witch; only when the children succeed in stuffing her into her own oven do the exuberant dance-like patterns re-emerge, as Hänsel and Gretel joyfully celebrate their triumph along with the children brought back to life by the broken spell.
Despite its apparent simplicity, Humperdinck’s opera contains a wealth of themes, with a score remarkable for its range of colours and textures, clearly inspired by Wagner. However, these complexities do not overpower the opera: the music retains its fairy-tale charm. This production features celebrated German sopranos Ingeborg Springer and Renate Hoff as the two young children, expertly supported by operatic greats Theo Adam, Gisela Schröter and Peter Schreier.
Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hänsel und Gretel has remained a firm favourite in opera houses around the world.
Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel (German: Hänsel und Gretel) is an opera by 19th century German composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as a Märchenoper or fairy-tale opera based on the Grimm brothers’ story by the same title.
The familiar tale begins in the broom-maker’s house, where the children are sent by their mother into the forest in search of strawberries and lose their way until they find a gingerbread house and encounter a witch, who they shove into an oven intended for them. Mother and father find the children.
In the Met’s darkly comic production designed with colorful, food-themed sets, the dark forest where the children become lost is a mysterious banquet hall and they are attended to by 14 strange chefs in the end rather than angels.
Humperdinck’s opera is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being "Abendsegen" ("Evening Benediction") from Act 2. This well-known work has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time.
In English-speaking countries Hansel and Gretel is usually presented in English. Since 2007, the Met has performed the work as it was originally created for the Welsh National Opera using David Pountney’s translation. Previously, it was produced in a translation by Norman Kelley written for the Metropolitan Opera’s 1967 production.
Hansel and Gretel received its world premiere at the Hoftheater in Weimar on December 23, 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss. It was first seen in New York on October 8,1895. Most recently, the opera was staged during the Met’s 2017–18 season.
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