Hänsel und Gretel, EHWV 93.3 (CD)
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Hänsel und Gretel, EHWV 93.3 (CD)
The fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel is a perfect choice as the first joint trip to the opera for parents and children to enjoy. The story of the two children who lose their way in the forest and are ensnared by the evil witch is well-known. The plot reflects the age-old conflict between good and evil, and has a happy ending. Add to this Humperdinck’s magical music: poetically childlike and powerfully dramatic at the same time. In the score, Humperdinck’s close connection to Richard Wagner is always discernible.
The composition oscillates between childlike simplicity and adult monumentality. To this day, Hansel and Gretel remains one of the most popular pieces in the German opera repertoire. One of the main reasons for this is certainly the seriousness with which Humperdinck approached the simple story. All emotions are truly felt: and this is obvious not only to a child, but also to any adult who has retained a childlike view of the world. Who better than Marek Janowski here as conductor? Not only does he clearly feel completely at home in this late-Romantic German repertoire, he has also already given benchmark-setting interpretations of these works in both the major concert halls and the most important opera-houses. At the head of “his” Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin – which he previously led for 14 years, raising it to an outstanding level of playing – he takes the listeners into the forest-bird sound-world of this fairy-tale opera, at all times accompanied by a well-coordinated ensemble of singers.
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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