Hansel and Gretel are sent into the forest by their mother to gather berries. The children get lost and stumble upon a house made of gingerbread, which proves too much of a temptation, despite the strange woman who lives there…
This fairytale opera about a brother and sister who get lost in a forest was originally created by composer Engelbert Humperdinck and his sister Adelheid Wette as a children’s entertainment; it soon turned into a fully-fledged opera. Humperdinck’s colourful score and Wette’s libretto bring out the dark aspects of the Brothers Grimms’ fairytale and convey its humour and sense of hope. Hansel and Gretel was first performed in Weimar on the night before Christmas Eve in 1893. The opera opened in London on Boxing Day the following year, and has remained an enduring seasonal classic throughout Europe.
The Royal Opera’s 2008 production is full of visual delights and displays all of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s characteristic wit. Against a panoramic scrolling backdrop, Hansel and Gretel venture deep into the forest. They are watched over by the mysterious Sandman, a Dew Fairy with a penchant for cleaning and a host of guardian angels. These comforting scenes are contrasted with darker visions: the children encounter a wicked witch who has a truly nightmarish kitchen, in which she bakes children into biscuits. Humperdinck vividly evokes the various moods and scenes of the story in a score that combines catchy folksongs with exquisite orchestral interludes.