Hänsel und Gretel

15 October 2013

‘Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next. Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs.’

This advice on witches from Roald Dahl might well be borne in mind by Hansel and Gretel in Glyndebourne’s production of the much-loved opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. The music may be familiar, the fairy tale may be universally known, but the story is open to many different interpretations.

Here, the two children are driven by hunger into the clutches of a terrifyingly vicious witch, who presides over an apparently free-for-all supermarket, shelves groaning with high-fat, high-sugar, highly coloured irresistible treats. Will they manage to outwit her, to escape her greedy malevolence?

Humperdinck’s music has a deceptive sweetness and simplicity. Its immediately appealing folk tunes are given an additional voluptuous richness, the atmosphere of the forest is conjured up in a darkly dramatic and resonant soundworld. And through this comes the limpid purity of the evening prayer which the children sing when they are lost and afraid, asking the angels to protect them as they lie down to sleep.

Let yourself be bewitched by the glorious music and the ghoulishly vivid imagination of director Laurent Pelly.

A revival of the 2008 Festival production
Sung in German with English supertitles

Act I
The broom-maker’s house
Hänsel and Gretel are doing chores. Both are bored and hungry, and to cheer themselves up they start to 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 their precarious existence, 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 II
The wood
Hansel and Gretel happily gather and eat strawberries. When night falls they realize they are lost, and are frightened by the mysterious shapes in the mist. But a Sandman appears andsettles 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 III
The Witch’s house
At dawn the Dew Fairy comes to wake Hänsel and Gretel.They are excited to see a 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 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. 

Creative Team 

Conductor Ilyich Rivas / Jeremy Bines (12, 14, 26, 29 Nov)
Director Laurent Pelly
Revival Director James Bonas
Designer Barbara de Limburg
Lighting Designer Joël Adam

The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Cast includes

Hänsel Victoria Yarovaya
Gretel Andriana Chuchman
Mother Anne Mason
Father Stephen Gadd
Witch Colin Judson

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