Hansel und Gretel
Composed by Engelbert Humperdinck
A happily-ever-after tale from overture to final curtain
|Lyric Opera Chicago presents|
|Hansel und Gretel|
Review by Katy Walsh
Lyric Opera presents Hansel und Gretel. Two kids are hungry. Their family is poor. Hansel and Gretel are starving. When their meager dinner is spilled, their mother sends them into the woods to pick strawberries. A strawberry binge makes the kids weary. They fall asleep and spend the night in the woods. In the morning, they stumble on a cake infested house. They overindulge in the sweet treats only to find out their hostess is a bit of a witch. She wants to have them for tea… but as the main course! Hansel und Gretel is a frightfully scrumptious treat for the whole family.
This music is magical. Engelbert Humperdinck’s composition is imaginative. The notes mix up childlike simplicity with feisty depth. Making his Lyric Opera conducting debut, Ward Stare takes us on this whimsical journey. (Sidenote: Stare made his Lyric debut as principal trombonist at age 18.) Under Stare’s baton, the music transports us from cruel reality to dreamlike fantasy to dessert-ed ecstasy. What a ride! A frolicking trip! Throughout the show, the sense of playfulness is always present. Despite the underlying themes of poverty and cannibalism, the opera maintains its make-believe quality.
An unforgettable Jill Grove (witch) is a nimble sorceress. An impressive Grove sings beautifully while trashing the stage and climbing on furniture. Joining her in messing up the kitchen, Maria Kanyova (Gretel) and Elizabeth DeShong (Hansel) are an insatiable pair. The captivating Kanyova and DeShong eat and sing with amazing agility. They are at their heart-strings tugging best when they protect each other. The strong sister-brother bond is just kid-like precious. It’s easy to forget they are adults and that DeShong is a woman. Wow! Joining them for the final scene, Anima Young Singers of Greater Chicago are the (*spoiler alert*) gingerbread men that come back to life. It’s an enchanting finish for this beloved children’s classic.
Hansel und Gretel is a perfect pick for children and adults or opera newbies and subscribers. The happily ever-after starts at the overture and plays straight through to the curtain.
Hansel und Gretel continues through January 19th at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map), with 7:30pm performances on December 12th, January 8th, 11th, 14th and 19th; 2pm performances on December 14th, 16th and January 17th. Tickets are $20-$224, and are available by phone (312.332.2244) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at LyricOpera.org. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission. Performed in German, with projected English subtitles.)
Photos by Dan Rest
behind the scenes
3Words: Crushing hard on the music, Roger describes it with “mythical, musical, fairylicious”