Imagine two hungry children lost in a dark forest that spots a magical house made of delicious candy. Sound wonderful isn’t it? However children beware: a wicked witch lurks in the background!
Opera da Camera - Hänsel und Gretel -
Ciné-Théâtre Le Château Montréal, QC
Encouraging children to fully appreciate the fine art of Opera can be challenging for parents who may have financial constraints and who may not be familiar themselves with these lengthy, classical productions. Opera da Camera’s beautiful rendition of Engelbert Humperdinck’s enchanting opera Hansel and Gretel was not only professionally executed with excellent soloists, charming decor and costumes but also the general atmosphere of the opera was made accessible to all ages!
The timeless story of Hansel and Gretel draws its origin from the imagination of the Grimm Brothers. With a libretto written by Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, Engelbert Humperdinck called his musical rendition a “fairy-tale opera" (Märchenoper) that had its premier in 1893 under the baton of Richard Strauss. The score is a joyful and intricate combination of character motifs (leitmotifs) and orchestral complexity with simple folk-like melodies to create a rich and accessible score that Strauss identified as being “authentically German”.
A starving Hansel and Gretel are idling their time away at home and dancing while their mother is away. Hansel accidentally spills a milk vase and gets a scolding from his mother who orders them outside to collect berries. Their father arrives home with food only to find out the children are in the haunted forest.
Lost in the forest, the children decide to sleep for the night during which time they are visited by the Sandman, fourteen angels and the Dew Fairy who come to protect them from harm.
The children happen across a cottage made of cakes, licorice and human shaped gingerbread cookies and starts nibbling. A wicked witch captures them and threatens to bake them in her over and eat them! Luckily Gretel outsmarts the witch and throws her into her own oven. The children are all saved and reunited with their parent. Good has triumphed over evil and all is well.
Opera da Camera's modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel captures the universal themes of poverty, children's ennui, hopes and dreams and the battle between good & evil.
Led my musical Director Benjamin Kwong, the score was performed skillfully by dual pianists and the opera was sung in German by a cast of talented professional singers with English and French surtitles displayed on a large overhead screen to help the audience follow the narrative. It was refreshing and inspiring for the youth in the audience to see a choir of young women from NDG and youth dancers from the Hudson Classical Ballet School in Hudson, Quebec on stage.
With simple but effective decors: four large blocks that once rearranged, transformed from being a kitchen to large trees in the forest to the scary oven of the witch, Opera da Camera’s production of Hansel and Gretel was charming and appreciated by all ages.
Peter - Martin-Michel Boucher, baritone
Gertrud - Anik St. Louis, soprano
Hänsel - Meagan Zantingh, mezzo-soprano
Gretel - Valérie Bélanger, soprano
Knusperhexe - Kathrin Welte, mezzo-soprano
Sandmännchen and Taumännchen - Marie-Claire Fafard-Blais, soprano
Benjamin Kwong, music director
Andrew Cuk, stage director
Hansel and Gretel from October 17th to the 24th at Théâtre Le Chateau
For more information on up-coming performances please consult Opera da Camera main page