Wednesday 6 November 2013

Hansel Und Gretel at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Tuesday 5th November 2013 I attended the Glyndebourne production of Hansel Und Gretel at Norwich Theatre Royal. This opera by Engelbert Humperdinck has long cast its musical spell over audiences of all ages. The score vividly evoked the magical world of fairy tale, and Laurent Pelly's deliciously witty production injected a modern twist into this enchanting classic.

Sung in German this fairy tale opera in three acts featured wonderful performances from Victoria Yarovaya as Hansel and Andriana Churchman as Gretel. The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra were conducted by Ilyich Rivas. Hansel Und Gretel was first performed at the Court Theatre, Weimar in 1893.

Hansel 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 Hansel 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.

Hansel 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.

At dawn the Dew Fairy comes to wake Hansel 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 Hansel 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 Hansel, 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. Hansel invokes the formula for breaking the spell, and the children jump up and thank Hansel and Gretel for saving them. The Mother and Father appear, and the family is reunited.

This was a fantastic and magical evening at Norwich Theatre Royal with Glyndebourne bringing the story of Hansel Und Gretel by the Brothers Grimm to the stage. I greatly enjoyed this fairy tale opera which brought world class opera performance to Norwich with Glyndebourne making their annual visit to Norwich Theatre Royal.

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