We hope that your winter holiday season has started off well, opera fans! To get into the spirit, join us for our special holiday edition of Hansel and Gretel on Sunday, December 11th at 3 p.m!
Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel premiered at the Hoftheater in Weimar, Germany on December 23, 1893, directed by Richard Strauss; the first performance in England was at London’s Daly Theater on Boxing Day (December 26th), the following year. As a result, the opera quickly became associated with Christmas, despite the fact that the story does not take place at that time of year (In Act I, Mother sends the children out into the woods to pick strawberries). In fact, Hansel and Gretel was the Metropolitan Opera’s very first matinee radio broadcast, on Christmas Day in 1931!
Now, if you remember reading the original Brothers Grimm version, you may be wondering whether this opera is truly appropriate for children, and we can respond with a resounding “Yes!” Composer Engelbert Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette, originally wrote a play for children based on the Grimm fairy tale, and she asked her brother to set it to music. Humperdinck did not originally plan for Hansel and Gretel to become a full-length opera, but after finishing the songs for her play, he decided to extend his score. Their collaboration replaces the despair, famine and abandonment issues of the original tale, with a tired mother who sends her lazy and mischievous children out to gather fruit for supper; when Mother finally finds the lost children after their adventure with the witch, she embraces them with joy and relief. Our version has been edited for the in-school touring opera program, and clocks in at under an hour, including a Question & Answer session with the singers following the performance; the Holiday Edition will also include a special appearance by Santa!
If you and your children enjoy our holiday presentation of Hansel and Gretel, a few other fairy tale operas to watch for include Dvořák’s Rusalka, (based on Slavic versions of The Little Mermaid), Rossini’s La Cenerentolaand Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella), and Zémire et Azorby Belgian composer André Grétry, an operatic version of Beauty and the Beast.