13 Feb - 10 Apr
This Hansel & Gretel is not sugary and sweet, it’s a decidedly dark and delicious confection. Richard Jones’s endlessly inventive production of Humperdinck’s gorgeous opera revels in the story’s more sinister moments whilst also casting a magical spell over audiences.
Co-production with Lyric Opera, Chicago.
Supported by WNO Idloes Owen Society
Production note: This production is set both in the 1950s and in a timeless fairytale age.
Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director Richard Jones
Designer John Macfarlane
Lighting Designer Jennifer Tipton
Original Choreographer Linda Dobell
Gretel Ailish Tynan
Hansel Anna Grevelius
The Witch Adrian Thompson
Peter Ashley Holland
The Mother Miriam Murphy
All performances start at 7.15pm
Running time two hours and ten minutes including one interval
Sung in English with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff and Llandudno)
Deep in the forest, brother and sister Hansel and Gretel have been given several housework chores to complete before their parents return home. Hansel complains that he is too hungry to finish the tasks, so his sister tries to encourage him by telling him about a bottle of milk that their mother has bought for dessert that evening. Hansel finds the bottle and sips the cream on top, dancing for joy with his sister. When their mother returns, she finds that the chores haven’t been completed, and as she reprimands the two children, she accidentally knocks over the bottle, spilling the milk on the floor. In her frustration, she orders the children out into the woods to pick strawberries. She prays to God for the ability to provide food for her hungry children. Their father, a broom-maker, returns home, thoroughly drunk after a successful day at the market. His wife jumps for joy, and he then asks where the children are. She finally tells him that she sent the children into the forest for strawberries. The father is horrified: the woods are haunted by a Witch who tricks children into her gingerbread house, and then eats them. The stricken parents set out into the forest in search of Hansel and Gretel.
The two children are happily picking strawberries and playing together in the forest. As they tuck into the fruit, they hear a cuckoo singing. Night falls, and they suddenly realise that they have eaten all of the strawberries. Gretel hastily tries to gather some of the remaining fruit, while Hansel tries to retrace their path, but he confesses that they have lost their way. They are startled by the appearance of a stranger, The Sandman, who sprinkles his dust over their eyes, sending the children to sleep. Before they go into the land of dreams, they say their evening prayer, and fourteen angels descend from above, protecting them in their sleep.
The Dew Fairy makes a brief appearance to wake the two sleeping children by quickly sprinkling Dew on their faces. Gretel rouses Hansel, and as they sleepily stretch out, they spot a large gingerbread house surrounded by a fence made of out of gingerbread men. Full of curiosity, they can’t resist going up to the house, and start to nibble on its walls. They ignore the sounds of a strange voice from within, and finally, the wicked Witch emerges from the house. She captures Hansel with a rope, and attempts to lure the children in with the promise of sweets. Hansel and Gretel break away, but they are stopped in their tracks by the Witch’s spell, and they are lead into the gingerbread house. As the Witch imprisons Hansel with a spell, she sends Gretel to collect raisins and nuts, and explains to that she plans to fatten up Hansel so that she can eat him. The short-sighted Witch approaches Hansel’s cage, and asks him to stick out a finger: instead the young boy holds out a chicken bone. Feeling such a scrawny limb, the Witch continues to feed Hansel. When the Witch’s back is turned, Gretel loosens the lock on Hansel’s cage. When the Witch commands Gretel to inspect the oven, the young girl plays ignorant, forcing the Witch to demonstrate by peering inside, at which point the children shove the Witch into the fire, slamming the door behind her. The oven explodes, and the gingerbread men outside the house transform into children, freed from their enchantment. Hansel and Gretel’s parents find their children at last, and they are reconciled together in the spirit of love and repentance.