Opera in the Heights presents Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel,
November 14 - 23, at Lambert Hall in the Houston Heights. A fairy tale
of two adventurous children and a witch you’ll not soon forget.
One of the first fairy tales we hear as children is Hansel and Gretel
by The Brothers Grimm. We accept it as is, only later realizing it
introduces some very dicey subjects: child abandonment, a father who
gets drunk, and cannibalism!
The opera version is softened up a bit, but the core of the story
remains. Hansel and Gretel are siblings in a poor broom maker’s home in
the woods. When mom returns with a bottle of milk to make pudding, she
is unhappy with the children who have not finished their chores. There
are some rowdy recriminations causing the milk to be spilled. Mom
angrily sends the children out into the woods to gather strawberries for
H and G have fun gathering strawberries and begin to play make
believe, getting involved in their games and end up eating all the
strawberries they have gathered. Now they realize they will be in more
trouble with Mom, plus it’s getting dark and they are lost!
Things begin to get magical because, after all, they are in a fairy
tale woods where all bets are off. It can be scary, dangerous, full of
temptations and desires we hide in the daylight - and wolves!! (Oops,
that’s another fairy tale; ours has a cannibalistic witch with a taste
for little kids!) It can also be magical with good things: Hansel and
Gretel get the Sandman, the protection of fourteen angels who sing them
to sleep, and the dew fairy to awaken them in the morning.
The score is admired for its German folk music-inspired themes
including the beloved “Evening Benediction” in the second act. Engelbert
Humperdinck composed the score and his sister Adelheid Wette wrote the
libretto. And that’s another brother-sister story for another day.
Outstanding young singers from throughout the United States and guest
international singers along with a live orchestra bring each opera to
life in the intimate 300-seat Lambert Hall.
The opera will be sung in German with English surtitles projected above the stage.
Illustration by Robin Kachantones.