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'Hansel and Gretel' opens at Power Center

BY SARAH PETERSON
Daily Fine Arts Editor
Published November 12, 2004

With a name like Engelbert Humperdinck, any work that comes from
your hand is going to be creative genius. The renowned
singer’s best-known work, the opera “Hansel and
Gretel” closely follows the story of the Grimm
Brothers’ famous fairy tale, is being performed this weekend
on the Power Center stage. The opera is a “very
straight-forward story-book presentation,” stated the
director of the opera, Josh Major.

The familiar story of “Hansel and Gretel” tells the
tale of two children who get lost in the woods and the adventure
they have. During their wanderings, they happen upon a cottage made
of sweets. Much to the misfortune of Hansel and Gretel, however,
this cottage belongs to a witch who has a peculiar taste for
children. She captures them and tries to fatten them up in order to
bake them into gingerbread. In the end, the children manage to
outsmart the witch and escape.

The opera draws a lot of its magical qualities from a fantastic
score and rich music, but the costumes and scenery also add to its
whimsical feel. These are done in a style that bring the story to
life, making the audience feel like it has been drawn into the
fairy tale.

Adding to the magic and humor of the opera is the extra depth
this production includes in the character of the witch. Instead of
simply being dead set on eating the children, this production gives
her vanity as another vice.

The cast members of this production are all students from the
University, but instead of casting people to fit parts, the
auditions for this show determined what opera would be performed.
“The students auditioned last April,” Major explained.
“That allowed us to hear the students and then pick a show
from the repertoire of the students. They then spent the summer
learning their parts.”

In getting the play ready for opening night, Major explained
that the challenges were the same as are always faced when doing
any type of production. The one exception, however, was trying to
work with the 24 elementary school children in the cast.
“Trying to get 24 children, ages 8 to 10, to do exactly what
you want them to, that’s an obstacle,” stated
Major.

This opera is different in that it is sung in English, making it
a little more accessible than standard operas for the audience. As
Major was quick to point out though, any opera, when done well,
will be enjoyable and a success. This production is no exception.
Major said seeing this opera will be “a great musical
experience, where you get to see fabulous young singers and a great
story.”