Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Hansel and Gretel 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, January 7, 1:00 P.M.

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Hansel and Gretel in the dreamworld of the forest
© Beth Bergman 2012
The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation and 
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media, 
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Hansel and Gretel  

Music by Engelbert Humperdinck
Libretto by Adelheid Wette, based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
English translation by David Pountney
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance) 
Gretel     soprano, ALEKSANDRA
    KURZAK
Hansel     mezzo, ALICE COOTE
Gertrude     mezzo, MICHAELA MARTENS
Peter     baritone, DWAYNE CROFT
Sandman     mezzo, JENNIFER
    JOHNSON CANO
Dew Fairy soprano, LEI XU
Witch tenor, ROBERT BRUBAKER
 
Conducted by ROBIN TICCIATI
 
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
 
Production: Richard Jones
Set and costume designer: John Macfarlane
Lighting designer: Jennifer Tipton
Choreographer: Linda Dobell
Stage director: J. Knighten Smit
Children’s chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque, 
    Howard Watkins, J. David Jackson
Assistant stage director: Eric Einhorn
English coach: Felicity Palmer
 
Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher 
    Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa; 
    and Karen and Kevin Kennedy
 
Additional funding from Dr. Coco Lazaroff, 
    and Joan Taub Ades and Alan M. Ades
 
Revival a gift of Dr. Coco Lazaroff
THE SCENES    Timings 
ACT I Hansel and Gretel's house 1:00–
ACT II In the forest –2:05
ACT III The Witch's house 2:35–3:15

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.

Originally created for Welsh National Opera
    and Lyric Opera of Chicago

THE STORY 

ACT I. Mythical Germany. In the house of Peter, a poor broommaker, Hansel and Gretel are at work while their parents are off selling brooms. The children forget their chores, romp, quarrel and make up. When their mother, Gertrude, enters, she is angry to see them idle, and when she goes to strike Hansel she upsets a pitcher of milk that was to be used for supper. Furious, Gertrude chases both children out of the house and into the forest to find wild strawberries. Then, bemoaning their poverty, she sinks exhausted onto a chair and falls asleep. The tipsy voice of her husband is heard outside. Having sold all his brooms, he has returned home with a knapsack full of food. When he asks where the children are, Gertrude tells him she sent them into the woods. Horrified, Peter tells her about the Witch who lives there and who bakes children into gingerbread. The parents rush from the house to search for Hansel and Gretel.

In a clearing in the forest, Gretel makes a nosegay of wild flowers while Hansel fills his basket with berries. When he returns to Gretel, the hungry children eat the berries. As twilight falls, they realize that they don't know the way home. In the darkness every sight and sound frightens them until the Sandman comes, promising restful sleep. The two children kneel to say their prayers, then quickly close their eyes. As Hansel and Gretel sleep, fourteen angels descend from heaven to guard them through the night.

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The children in the kitchen of the Witch's house (Angelika Kirchschlager as Hansel, Miah Persson as Gretel, Philip Langridge as the Witch)
© Beth Bergman 2012

ACT II. In the morning, Hansel and Gretel are awakened by the Dew Fairy. As the mists lift, they discover a many-turreted candy house surrounded by a fence of gingerbread children. When Hansel breaks a piece of cake from one of the windows, a voice calls from within. An old crone comes out and grabs him; when the children refuse her blandishments, she puts a spell on them and claps Hansel in a cage. Gretel is ordered into the house to set the table as a huge oven comes into view. Overjoyed at her prospective feast, the Witch jumps onto her broomstick and rides above the house. Hungry for Gretel, the Witch calls her to the oven. Cleverly, Gretel whispers the Witch's magic words, which break the spell on Hansel; she then asks the Witch to show her how to work the oven. As the Witch does so, both children push her in and slam the door. The oven gets hotter and hotter, then explodes as the Witch is baked to a crisp. The gingerbread children are released from their spell and dance around Hansel and Gretel. As Peter and Gertrude rush in and embrace their children, a huge gingerbread cake of the Witch is found in the ruins of the oven. All join in giving thanks for their deliverance.

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Hansel and Gretel trap the Witch in her own oven
© Beth Bergman 2012

THE BACKGROUND 

Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) bridged the gap between German Romantic opera and modern times. Grounded in traditional music, inspired by the folkloristic atmosphere summed up in Weber's Der Freischütz, he was transformed by Wagner's influence into a precursor of Richard Strauss and lived to see the latter eclipse him as Wagner's heir in German opera.

Born in Siegburg, near Bonn, Humperdinck set out to be an architect, but a meeting with Ferdinand Hiller, a celebrated composer and conductor, revealed the young man's musical talent, and he changed his field of study. Of his five operas after Hänsel und Gretel, Königskinder (which had its world premiere at the Met in 1910) attained the greatest success.

Hänsel und Gretel was first performed at Weimar on December 23, 1893, with Richard Strauss conducting. The first Metropolitan Opera performance took place on the afternoon of November 25, 1905. The composer had come to New York to supervise the production. Hänsel was the first complete opera in the regular broadcast series from the Met, on Christmas Day, 1931. The Met's new production by Richard Jones will have its first performance on December 24, 2007.

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Alice Coote as Hansel in Richard
Jones's staging of Hansel and Gretel
at the Met

© Beth Bergman 2012

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

Amanda Glauert's articles on Humperdinck and his Hansel in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera are an excellent introduction. The Annotated Brothers Grimm (Norton) includes "Hansel and Gretel" among the forty tales translated by Maria Tatar, whose book holds several gruesome stories excised from previous collections.

The best English-language Hansel and Gretel on CD is Chandos's 2007 release, which features veteran Hansel enthusiast Charles Mackerras pacing the brother-and-sister act of Jennifer Larmore and Rebecca Evans. Larmore's Hansel is joined by Ruth Ziesak's Gretel in Donald Runnicles's engaging 1994 German-language performance (Teldec). Herbert von Karajan's star-studded 1953 recording (EMI) still glows, thanks to the magic teamwork of its two Elisabeths - Grümmer (Hänsel) and Schwarzkopf (Gretel).

On DVD, the Met's current Richard Jones production, sung in English, is given a sparkling performance, led by Vladimir Jurowski (EMI); Alice Coote, Christine Schäfer and Philip Langridge head the cast, as they did at the production's 2007 house premiere. Of even more recent vintage is Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser's Covent Garden production (Opus Arte), sung in German and led with benevolent authority by Colin Davis; Anja Silja's energetic Witch menaces Diana Damrau (Gretel) and Angelika Kirchschlager (Hänsel). Also appealing are Katharina Thalbach's 2006 staging at Dresden State Opera (EuroArts) and August Everding's lovely 1981 film, in German, with Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic on the soundtrack. spacer 

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