Hänsel und Gretel
If Father Christmas unexpectedly brings you a new tablet or laptop, try it out with our special two act broadcast, available to watch for one week only after midnight on 26 December on guardian.co.uk
There's plenty to watch and learn about the opera in advance of the screening. Click on the following links to watch videos and read about:
- The Story
- The Characters
- Behind the Scenes
- The Synopsis
- Images of the Production
- Play the Hänsel und Gretel game and see if you can outwit the wicked witch!
You can find all of the above and more at our website for younger opera fans; operaland.org
The opera will be available from 12.01 am on Boxing Day and you can return to here and use the WATCH NOW button to access the page.
Hänsel und Gretel is also available to buy on DVD. Click here to buy.
'the magnificent, …perfect, production at Glyndebourne' (The Spectator, August 2008)
The basics of the plot
Having been sent into the forest by their mother to search for food, Hänsel and Gretel become lost. (Unlike the original fairy tale written by the Grimm brothers, the mother is not an evil character who leads the children into the woods).
The children find the Witch’s house and are lured inside. The Witch intends to fatten Hänsel up in order to eat him, but she is overpowered by Gretel who pushes her into the oven, and thereby releases the souls of all the other children who have already been eaten. Hänsel and Gretel’s parents eventually manage to find them again and they celebrate together by the remains of the Witch’s house.
Act One (The broom-maker’s house in the Harz Mountains)
Hänsel and Gretel are doing chores. Both are bored and hungry, and to cheer themselves up they start to sing and dance. Their games are interrupted by their Mother, who is angry to find them playing instead of working. In her anger she knocks over the milk jug, losing what was to have been supper.
She sends them into the forest to gather strawberries instead. Wearied by the family's poverty, she sinks into a chair, only to be woken by the return of her husband. She is irritated to find him tipsy, but calms down when he produces a sack full of food. When he enquires after Hänsel and Gretel, he is alarmed to hear they are in the forest: he warns of the Witch who lives there, and both parents set out to look for the children.
Act Two (The wood)
Hänsel and Gretel happily gather and eat strawberries. When night falls, they realise they are lost, and are frightened by the mysterious shapes in the mist. But a Sandman appears and settles them. They say their evening prayers, and go to sleep. The mist around them turns to clouds from which angels appear, who guard the children from harm.
Act Three (The gingerbread house)
At dawn the Dew Fairy comes to wake Hänsel and Gretel. They are excited to see a gingerbread house not far away, but when they begin to nibble at it, the Witch emerges and captures them, casting a spell. She puts Hänsel in a cage, telling Gretel that her brother needs fattening.
She releases Gretel with a spell, in order that the girl may help her with the oven. But Gretel uses the spell to free Hänsel, and as the Witch demonstrates to Gretel how to check the oven, the children push her into it. As the Witch dies, the fence of gingerbread people is transformed back into motionless children. Hänsel invokes the formula for breaking the spell, and the children jump up and thank Hänsel and Gretel for saving them. The Mother and Father appear, and the family is reunited. All celebrate when they find that the Witch has herself been transformed into gingerbread.