Hansel and Gretel, the opera that every major German opera house includes in its winter offering, is to be staged at Covent Garden in a new production that makes the most of the story's roots. Director Antony McDonald is also designing the set, based on a picturebook, and characters from all corners of children's literature will pop up on stage, in a production that is firmly aimed at the whole family.
The Hansel and Gretel story needs no introduction, and opera-goers can expect all the familiar elements: the brother and sister lost in the wood, the enticing gingerbread house, the sinister witch who lives there. There will be fun and laughter, and a few chills too, but a happy ending is assured.
A real-life brother and sister were behind the opera, which has been a favourite since its first performance in Weimar in 1893. (This was conducted by the composer Richard Strauss; the next year Gustav Mahler conducted the Hamburg premiere. Hansel and Gretel attracts music royalty.)
It was the German writer Adelheid Wette who asked her composer brother Englebert Humperdinck to set to music some songs she had written, based on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. Those settings grew into the complete opera with opportunities for lavish set-pieces and a ballet. It was surely the librettist's and composer's recollections of their own childhood that makes the relationship between Hansel and Gretel ring so true: brothers and sisters in the audience will recognise an authentic mix of bickering and affection...
In the Royal Opera House's new production, the mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp, marvellous recently in Garsington Opera's five-star Capriccio, sings Hansel. Gretel is sung by the soprano Jennifer Davies. German tenor Gerhard Siegel sings the Witch. Sebastian Weigle conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.
Hansel and Gretel is sung in German with English surtitles, but this highly visual opera and its lovely music will be easy for all to understand, and is suitable for children aged six and over.
Booking for 'Hansel and Gretel' opens at 9AM, Wed 25 July. Book it with The Nutcracker to take advantage of the Royal Opera House's Family Package: booking open now.
|What||Hansel and Gretel, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
13 Dec 18 – 29 Dec 18, Times vary; 5 performances, running time about 3 hours