For the first time, Lyric Opera San Diego will perform Engelbert Humperdinck's musical version of the classic children's fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel," in English. Students of the Lyric Opera Academy will be performing and sharing the training and gifts they are honing in their classes. It is a perfect kickoff to the holiday season. Families will love the magical story production of this German folk traditional classic, with its beautiful Wagner-influenced musical score.
General Director, Leon Natker, will be transformed into the horrible wicked Witch, flying across the Birch North Park Theatre stage in all five performances. There is a long tradition of this role being performed by a man, and many tenors in the history of opera have taken great delight in the role, with all its evil comic turns and flight.
Once upon a time, a poor broom maker and his wife lived in a lonesome cottage in the Harz Mountains with their little son, Hansel, and daughter, Gretel. After returning from a long trip in which they were unable to sell any brooms, Hansel and Gretel’s mom finds them frolicking and neglecting their chores. She scolds the children, and sends them out into the forest to pick wild strawberries for supper.
As the children roam through the woods they lose track of time and their sense of direction. The darkening forest, as they have been taught, is haunted and Hansel and Gretel, both frightened, cower together and drift off to sleep as they recite prayers. Awakened by daylight with their spirits refreshed, Hansel and Gretel spot an object they had overlooked in the evening darkness - a beautiful little house, built of all manner of good things to eat, and giving off a most appetizing odor.
Hansel and Gretel approach the house and begin breaking off tasty morsels from the walls, unbeknownst that it is the abode of a wicked Witch; an ogress who entraps small boys and girls by her spells, pops them into her oven, and bakes them into delectable gingerbread. The Witch catches Hansel and Gretel while they are eating and casts a spell, preventing their escape.
Imprisoned and fattened on sweets it appears that an ill fate awaits both children, but Gretel tricks the Witch into the oven and succeeds in breaking the spell; freeing not only Hansel, but all the other boys and girls who had been tricked by the Witch.
About the Show
"Hansel and Gretel" is a fairy tale opera by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck. His sister, Adelheid Wette, approached him about writing music for Christmas songs she had written for her children, based on the popular fairy tale. She eventually wrote the libretto for the opera, much admired for its folk music-inspired themes.
"Hansel and Gretel" premiered in Weimar on December 23, 1893, conducted by famed composer Richard Strauss. Since then it has been associated with Christmas and today is still most often performed at the holidays.
There have been several movie versions of the opera, and it was also the first complete Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast performance, on Christmas Day 1931. Again on Christmas Day, this time in 1982, the opera was telecast live on the PBS "Live from the Met" series.
Friday Nov. 13, Thursday Nov. 19 and Saturday Nov. 21 at 7:30 pm. Sunday Nov. 15 and Nov. 22 at 2:30 pm
Prices range from $32 to $52; children 17 and under are half price. For more information please call the Box Office, (619) 239-8836. Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104.