The Dallas Opera’s bewitching storybook Hansel and Gretel – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United States Humperdinck, Hansel and Gretel: Soloists, Youngsters’s Refrain of the Larger Dallas Choral Society, The Dallas Opera Orchestra / Emmanuel Villaume (conductor). Livestreamed (directed by Tim Kelly) from the Margot and Invoice Winspear Opera Home, Dallas, 5.11.2022. (JPr)

Elena Villalón (Gretel), Patricia Racette (Witch) and Kangmin Justin Kim (Hansel) © Lynn Lane

Manufacturing:
Translation – Richard Sparks
Director, Set and Costume designer – Doug Fitch
Authentic Lighting designer – Duane Schuler
Revival Lighting designer – Eric Watkins
Assistant director, Choreographer and Dance Captain – Austin Spangler
Principal conductor, Larger Dallas Choral Society – Terrie Preskitt-Brown

Solid:
Hansel – Kangmin Justin Kim
Gretel – Elena Villalón
The Witch and Mom – Patricia Racette
Father – Mark Delavan
Sandman – Lindsay Metzger
Dew Fairy – Gabrielle Gilliam
Solo Dancers – Kayleigh Eidson, Silken Kelly, J. Alexander Langley, Keon Ok. Nickie

There are a variety of how of now presenting Humperdinck’s Märchenoper (fairy-tale opera) Hansel and Gretel; a director can both ramp up the Gothic horror, or go for an ecological, anti-consumerist strategy, or like Doug Fitch’s manufacturing for Dallas Opera (through Los Angeles Opera the place it was first staged in 2006) revert to a kids’s storybook look that has Disney cartoon and Sesame Avenue influences.

Humperdinck was born close to Cologne in 1854 and in 1882 he was musical assistant to Richard Wagner serving to to organize the primary Parsifal performances at Bayreuth. Within the Eighteen Nineties, his sister, Adelheid Wette, had written a libretto based mostly on the Grimm fairy-tale, and requested her brother to set it to music as a Christmas leisure for her kids. Later, they determined to show it right into a full-scale opera and Hänsel und Gretel was premiered at Weimar on twenty third December 1893. It was an on the spot hit and has remained a permanent masterpiece. Humperdinck composed different operas however remained a sufferer of this primary large success since nothing else he did fairly matched as much as it. Richard Strauss – who was the assistant conductor for the premiere – referred to as it ‘a masterwork of the primary rank’ however Humperdinck’s music owes a lot to Wagner that the rating is nearly an affectionate parody of him at instances. I appear to listen to various things each time I see and listen to Hansel and Gretel, this time I recognised Das Rheingold and Siegfried (particularly the Forest Murmurs), although there was a lot else moreover. I additionally consider there could be a direct quote from Mahler’s setting of the Wunderhorn poem Das irdische Leben with the same matter of starvation that Hansel sings about. Each that and the opera have been composed on the identical time, and it will be attention-grabbing to know which truly was first: and all these cuckoos within the second act are certainly not one other Mahlerian coincidence. All three composers clearly knew one another effectively.

Director Doug Fitch’s designs are a delight and I believe there was far more going in the course of the overture than Tim Kelly’s cameras allowed us to see as they have been fixated on the batonless conductor Emmanuel Villaume who almost all the time had his head in his rating and infrequently regarded up. All I notably seen was video of a flying broomstick and the primary look of the purple gnome we hear about in Richard Sparks’s trendy English translation, in addition to various unusual vibrant creatures – most with massive luminous eyes – a few of whom have been there to maneuver components of the set round. The religiosity of the unique has been toned down and there are not 14 angels watching over the youngsters at night time and these are changed by references to the fantastic thing about nature and the protecting spirits surrounding them onstage. Elsewhere, Hansel and Gretel’s well-known dance-song turned a ‘Rice Cream Dance’ with the road ‘With my tongue, I’ll lick, lick, lick’ the place you may typically hear one thing like ‘With my foot, I’ll faucet, faucet, faucet.’

The opera begins with a comparatively naked stage aside from the again wall of a small home and with all the things apparently made with straw, there are two massive chairs, an equally over-sized desk (with a giant jug) and an array of six broomsticks. The primary Disney component comes once they dance alongside Hansel (blue shirt and lederhosen) and Gretel (orange-red high and yellow-striped skirt) and roam the stage. We first see the Mom as an enormous face projected on the again earlier than she seems for milk to be spilt and in her anger sends her kids off to collect strawberries within the haunted forest. The theme of starvation rears its thought-provoking head as she sings ‘Please assist me discover meals for my poor son and daughter’. The ruddy-cheeked Father earns a slap for being drunk however isn’t the wastrel he appears as he has had such a superb day promoting the brooms he makes and has purchased the meals all of them want, together with producing a string of sausages from his pocket and having ‘A cake for the youngsters’. He’s horrified to be taught they’re away within the forest the place a witch now lives.

The timpani at first of the ‘Witch’s Journey’ will make you consider the giants in Das Rheingold. Because the solar went down, we see three large red-capped toadstools while the gnome and different creatures preserve watch over the youngsters who can’t discover their approach residence in the dead of night and are asleep on a bush. The Sandman flies in just like the Woodbird in Siegfried and showers the youngsters with glitter somewhat than sand. This ‘dream pantomime’ ends the primary half.

The Dallas Opera’s Hansel and Gretel (dream pantomime) © Lynn Lane

The ultimate act opens with the creatures slinking away and Hansel and Gretel being woken up by the Dew Fairy who regarded like an angel atop a really massive Christmas tree coated with white lights. A gingerbread home seems trying as whether it is precisely the cottage of sweet or cake described in Sparks’s translation. The Witch seems like Bette Davis in What Ever Occurred to Child Jane? a nightmarish sight (for adults if not for youngsters) with a brilliant yellow wig which she later amusingly discards and somewhat brief pink tulle skirt. Singing ‘Come, I urge you humbly received’t you be a part of my fambly?’, the Witch wields a magic ladle and shortly Hansel and Gretel are underneath her spell and she’s going to flip Hansel right into a blob. (I intend to complete this evaluation by commenting on the musical performances however should point out right here what nice enjoyable Patricia Racette – who additionally sang the youngsters’s Mom – was clearly having because the Witch flying above the stage on her broom.)

Quickly Gretel grabs the ladle and releases Hansel from the spell he’s underneath, earlier than – somewhat too simply – the Witch is conned into climbing into her oven and he or she is despatched with extra of a whimper than a bang. Gingerbread figures fill the stage and are turned again into kids with a contact of Gretel’s ladle and Hansel and Gretel greet their dad and mom enthusiastically. The opera ends with all of the saved kids along with the Father proclaiming ‘For our spirits didn’t fail, so, we lived to inform the story!’

The manufacturing was contemporary and carried out with nice dedication by its forged and their singing – as heard by loudspeakers – was well-matched by their appearing. This Hansel and Gretel benefited enormously from having the sweet-toned countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim as a genuinely boyish Hansel to Elena Villalón’s suitably girly Gretel. They appeared to completely take pleasure in all of the infantile rough-and-tumble at first and all through the opera their voices blended completely. After Villalón’s Gretel is woke up by the Dew Fairy she sang her greeting to the brand new day and displayed some beautiful excessive notes. Patricia Racette was the strict Mom and an absolute hoot because the Witch, her soprano might not have the vocal high quality of earlier in her profession however she hocused-pocused very entertainingly. In his opening tune Mark Delavan was a plausible drunk as he extolled the delights of beer and when producing all of the meals he has purchased appeared much less feckless than the character generally can. Delavan’s authoritative bass-baritone oddly appeared to have a bit hassle reducing by the youngsters’s refrain and Humperdinck’s orchestration within the last moments. Humperdinck provides the Sandman and Dew Fairy probabilities on this opera that it’s nearly unimaginable to fail in and the limpid voices of Lindsay Metzger and Gabrielle Gilliam made the best possible of their alternatives.

Music director Emmanuel Villaume obtained a bewitching efficiency from his Dallas Opera Orchestra that had completely judged tempos and was lovingly nuanced with all of the Wagnerian colourations in Humperdinck’s melodic rating introduced into splendidly targeted element.

The livestream had a full programme of attention-grabbing content material earlier than and after the opera, in addition to in the course of the interval, and for details about any future operas on the Dallas Opera streaming service click on right here.

Jim Pritchard

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