Hansel and Gretel, Opera by E. Humperdinck
A magnificent opera by the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck – with a libretto by his sister, Adelheid Wette, who had asked the composer to write the work – based on the story of the same name by the brothers Grimm.
With the original title of Hänsel und Gretel, it was premiered to great success at the Hoftheater in Weimar (Germany) on 23 December 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss, who had asked to conduct it after being seeing the fascinating score.
In this ‘fairy tale opera’, as the composer himself described it, one can appreciate the influence of Wagner, for whom Humperdink worked as an assistant – in the use of a Wagnerian orchestra and of leitmotivs, for instance. Another key feature of the work is the inclusion of themes from German folklore and children’s stories. In this way, the composer merged his love of popular and children’s melodies with dramatic Wagnerian elements, both combining with the opera’s magical plot to such spectacular effect that Hansel and Gretel went on to achieve great popularity in theatres all over the world.
The music of this masterpiece is sublime: melodies that develop in a beautifully natural way, descriptive and expressive harmonies, lively rhythms and rich instrumentation. The main characters would ideally be performed by children, but the demanding nature of these roles (the need to be strong enough to be heard above a Wagnerian orchestra, for instance) means that they are usually performed by two women (mezzosoprano and soprano).
The story revolves around a brother and a sister, Hansel and Gretel, who get lost and fall asleep in the forest and who, on waking up, find themselves next to an amazing gingerbread house. But unknown to them, this is the lair of a wicked witch…
Let yourself be carried away by this sweet and enchanting story – and Engelbert Humperdinck’s crowning work – brought to life in Prague.