Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Breaking Down Hansel and Gretel

Well, in honor of my New Year's Resolutions, I am going to keep this redux of the Met Opera's HD broadcast of Engelbert Humperdinck's (really!!!) Hansel and Gretel (performed in English) mostly positive.

I went into the experience with pretty low expectations. I've seen H&G twice, and wasn't really overwhelmed with the show either time. Still, I had heard Alice Coote (Hansel) before and loved her, and was really excited to hear Christine Schäfer (Gretel), whom I had always wanted to hear. So, here goes:


  • Orchestra/Humperdinck/Conductor: The overture just blew me away, and I was in tears about three-fourths of the way through it. It was so lush, and German, and folksy and beautiful. Vladimir Jurowski was shockingly impressive (he's like 35 or 36!!!!). The man can conduct. Also he's handsome. Also he kind of looked like a vampire. I digress.
  • The Singers: Alice Coote and Christine Schäfer were lovely, especially Alice, I must say. She has this gorgeous, kind of clear, kind of husky, English sound, and was a fantastic actress. The evening prayer that the two delivered was heart-stopping. Oh! The tempo was VERY slow, and they never sang above mp. Again, tears.
  • The Production: I can sum it up as follows: super-creepy, yet very moving. The look was sort of Pan's Labyrinth meets Peter Greenaway. There were trees dressed in suits, and enormously fat chef/angels, and a fish butler! The trout sounds weird, but I kind of loved him...he was really sweet. It was a unique combination of the surreal (surroundings) and the real (the children were starving, for Pete's sake!), and it worked 99.9% of the time.
  • It doesn't bother me when directors modernize or make anachronistic choices. That being said, I grow weary of productions (you, too, movie directors!) that try to shock JUST to be shocking. I didn't need to see the Mother almost commit suicide by taking a bunch of pills, or see her throw up in the sink. They are in desperate need. I get it, already!
Basta! Next up is MacBeth on Jan. 12.

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