×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel" is, more often than not, casually tossed into the backwater category of "children's opera." But Los Angeles Opera, currently in the process of divesting itself of most of the trappings of "routine," gave this semi-Wagnerian 1893 treatment of a Brothers Grimm fairytale a rollout more fitting for a prestigious cornerstone of the repertoire.

With:
Gretel - Maria Kanyova Hansel - Lucy Schaufer Gertrude (the Mother) - Luana DeVol Peter (the Father) - Donnie Ray Albert Sandman - Christine Brandes Dew Fairy - Stacey Tappan The Witch - Graham Clark

Hansel and Gretel” is, more often than not, casually tossed into the backwater category of “children’s opera.” But Los Angeles Opera, currently in the process of divesting itself of most of the trappings of “routine,” gave this semi-Wagnerian 1893 treatment of a Brothers Grimm fairytale a rollout more fitting for a prestigious cornerstone of the repertoire. It corralled Alan Gilbert, one of the fastest risers of a new generation of American conductors, for his L.A. Opera debut. It got Douglas Fitch, fresh off an attention-grabbing triple-bill of Hindemith, Stravinsky and Carter at Tanglewood this past summer, to direct and design. And it gave adults in the audience something to chew on besides gingerbread cookies.

A stage director can take “Hansel and Gretel” pretty far into the realm of fantasy without straying from the spirit of the opera, and Fitch had no trouble fitting those parameters. His forest and cabin sets looked like children’s pop-up books, where straw chairs and tables suddenly start swaying and dancing to one of Humperdinck’s folk-like children’s tunes. His gingerbread house was right out of Central Casting, framed by a gigantic lollipop whose stem also served as a firepole to slide down.

Fitch populated his forest a la Maurice Sendak with endearing, gentle, hybrid creatures with big soulfully illuminated eyes. He followed Humperdinck’s musical lead in the aftermath of act one’s closing “Evening Prayer,” staging it simply yet magically as his friendly animals (instead of angels) wandered around the sleeping children before the night sky.

Fitch had the most multilevel fun with the role of the Witch. Usually, the part is entrusted to a star mezzo-soprano out for a campy lark, but Fitch instead cast a tenor, Graham Clark, hilariously clad in a pink tutu. This was a great in-joke for Wagnerians, for Clark gave L.A. Opera audiences a preview of his Mime in the 2009-10 Wagner “Ring” cycle here; his oily Witch sounded like Mime right down to the witch’s cackle. It also was a delectable confrontation of cross-dressing opera characters, where a man portraying a woman (the Witch) confronts a woman portraying a boy (Hansel). Ah, intrigue!

Mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer (Hansel) and soprano Maria Kanyova (Gretel) convincingly tumbled about as children, with Schaufer pointing out the words of Richard Sparks’ compulsively rhyming English libretto with particular clarity. As their Mother, Luana DeVol made her first appearance via a frightening video projection — scarier than any Witch — and hideously amplified voice, but soon she and their Father (sturdy-voiced baritone Donnie Ray Albert) were allowed to bemoan their poverty-stricken state rather poignantly.

Thankfully, the gifted Gilbert brought out Humperdinck’s symphonic intricacies in the pit, pointing out details, raising gentle yet powerful climaxes, carefully shaping every phrase from the opening notes of the Prelude onward. Given the superb response he got from the orchestra, L.A. Opera should get him back for another production pronto.

Hansel and Gretel

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 3,098 seats, $220 top

Production: A Los Angeles Opera production of an opera in two acts with music by Engelbert Humperdinck, original libretto by Adelheid Wette, new English libretto by Richard Sparks, adapted from a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Directed by Douglas Fitch. Conducted by Alan Gilbert.

Crew: Sets, Douglas Fitch. Lights, Mark Jonathan. Opened, reviewed Nov. 19, 2006. Runs through Dec. 17. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Gretel - Maria Kanyova Hansel - Lucy Schaufer Gertrude (the Mother) - Luana DeVol Peter (the Father) - Donnie Ray Albert Sandman - Christine Brandes Dew Fairy - Stacey Tappan The Witch - Graham Clark

More Scene

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

  • Millie Bobby Brown on Her Feature

    Millie Bobby Brown Calls Her Film Debut in 'Godzilla' 'Kind of Unreal'

    Millie Bobby Brown is no stranger to stardom thanks to “Stranger Things,” but she still can’t believe she’s making her feature film debut in the monster reboot “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” “It’s kind of unreal,” Brown told Variety at the premiere. “I’m like, ‘What is happening right now?’ It’s so bizarre and unreal, and [...]

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content