by Mike Telin
The first volume of children’s tales published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 includes some of today’s most beloved stories such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin. Also included in that volume is the tale of Hansel and Gretel, two children who cleverly outwit a witch. This week, Englebert Humperdinck’s adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale returns to the Hall Auditorium stage in Oberlin in four performances by Oberlin Opera Theatre, Raphael Jimenez conductor. The production also marks the return of rising opera star Karen Jesse (left) who is reviving her role as the witch.
The opera was last staged at Oberlin in 2003. Oberlin Opera theatre director Jonathon Field says this production is very different from the traditional approach to the opera that he took in the past. “As I was working on it during the spring I became disenchanted with the way I had done it before, so I took my score and erased all of my staging. I also began to look at the characters and tried to figure out some of the motivations — like what it was that led Hansel and Gretel to survive the witch when all of the other kids hadn’t.” However it is Field’s character motivations that prompted him to include a disclaimer in the opera’s publicity materials — Please note: Portions may not be suitable for patrons younger than 12.
Field points out that Hansel and Gretel come from a family that is very poor and often goes hungry. [Read more…]