Based in Hampstead, north London, opera company HGO will present a fully staged production of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel (1893) at Jacksons Lane theatre in Archway, north London. The opera is based on the Grimm brothers’ much-loved fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
The German libretto was written by Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid Wette, a well-known author, composer and folklorist in her own right. Wette proposed the idea of the opera to Humperdinck, suggesting that he write music for songs she had written for her children.
The opera’s plot will be familiar to anyone who is aware of the Grimm tale. When Mother comes home to find Hänsel and Gretel misbehaving she sends them into the forest to search for strawberries. However, when Father returns from work, he reminds her that the forest is the dwelling place of the evil Gingerbread Witch, or Die Knusperhexe (literally ‘Nibbling Witch’).
After meeting such fantastical characters as the Sandman and the Dew Fairy, the two children discover an amazing gingerbread house and, hungry, enthusiastically dig in to the sweet treats. However, this is the home of the Gingerbread Witch. They are taken prisoner by the witch, who plans to cook and eat them.
Hänsel and Gretel manage to free themselves using the witch’s own wand and push her into the oven she was going to cook the children in. As the witch dies, a fence made of gingerbread children is transformed back into real children.
Mother and Father arrive on the scene and the children are all saved.
The main roles are shared between the cast to give as many young singers the opportunity to perform on stage as possible. HGO said in a statement that it was “thrilled to have local children as the chorus of gingerbread children”.
British-Ukrainian mezzo-soprano Rozanna Madylus and Swiss mezzo-soprano Alexandra Meier share the trouser role of Hänsel, with Turkish soprano Beren Kader Fidan and German soprano Felicitas Wrede as Gretel.
Swedish-German contralto Mae Heydorn and American mezzo-soprano Sophie Patterson share the roles of Gertrud (Mother) and Die Knusperhexe (the Gingerbread Witch). Father (Peter) is sung by British baritone Oskar McCarthy and English baritone Armand Rabot.
The trouser role of the Sandman, or Sandmännchen, is shared by British sopranos Amelia Langley and Kitty Casey, while Irish soprano Cerys MacAllister and French soprano Marie Cayeux sing the role of the Dew Fairy, or Taumännchen.
There are eight performances of Hänsel and Gretel at Jacksons Lane theatre between 10 November and 19 November. The shows start at 7.30pm, except for the two Sundays, 12 and 19 November, which start at 4pm. The opera is sung in German with English surtitles. Performances, including an interval, will last about 2 hrs 30 minutes.
Standard tickets cost £25, with premium tickets at £40. Tickets for accompanied children are £12. Concession tickets costing £15 are available for some performances. Check HGO’s website for details, as well as information on which singers are performing on which dates.
Tickets are available directly from Jacksons Lane theatre.
If you go into the woods … Opera company HGO is set to stage a new production of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel to Jacksons Lane theatre in north London.