UW Today

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November 9, 2010

School of Music offers fairy tale opera, ‘Hansel and Gretel’

Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel

The UW production will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 19 and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 21. Tickets are $25 ($10 for students and seniors) and are available at the Arts Ticket office, 206-543-4880 or online.

Thomas Harper directs students from the UW Voice Division in the fully-staged production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s fairy tale opera Hansel and Gretel Nov. 17, 19 and 21 in Meany Hall. Musical accompaniment is by the University Symphony, conducted by Jonathan Pasternack.

Although Humperdinck composed a number of other works, his reputation rests chiefly on his opera Hansel and Gretel, which he began work on in Frankfurt in 1890. He first composed four songs to accompany a puppet show his nieces were giving at home. Then, using a libretto by his sister Adelheid Wette rather loosely based on the version of the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, he composed a Singspiel of 16 songs with piano accompaniment and connecting dialogue. By January of 1891 he had begun working on a complete orchestration.

The opera premiered in Weimar on Dec. 23, 1893, under the baton of Richard Strauss, who called it “a masterpiece of the highest quality… all of it original, new, and so authentically German.” With its highly original synthesis of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs, Hansel and Gretel was an instant and overwhelming success.

In 1923 the Royal Opera House of London chose it for their first complete radio opera broadcast. Eight years later it was the first opera transmitted live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It remains a worldwide favorite.