Opera North bring Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel to the stage and it is a glorious modern adaptation of the classic fairy tale.
After seeing a lot of Opera North’s traditional operas, it was refreshing to see something with a contemporary twist. Adapting the story from the classic tale, Hansel and Gretel live in an inner city tower block. Despite the lack of food in their fridge, whilst their mother and father are out at work, they misbehave and mess around in the house. When their mother comes home to see they’ve done no chores around the house, she banishes them to the woods to find food for dinner.
What is spectacular about this particular production is the lighting and effects. The innovative use of a camera makes the piece very visual and gives it dimension. They run around the house with a camera that is projected on the three walls of the house – giving us a more intimate look into their facial expressions and manner. However it is also used cleverly, as it is positioned in different areas in the house to project another scene, for example the camera is placed in front of numerous mini Christmas trees which creates the projection of the woods. This use of technology brings the piece into the modern era and gives opera a completely new look.
Hansel (Katie Bray) and Gretel (Ellie Laugharne) both give excellent performances as the young children. They bring a playful manner and animated characterisation to their characters, as their use of exaggerative expressions creates a lot of laughs. Vocally they are exceptional, as their voices stand alone beautifully but blend together like a masterpiece.
When the children wander into the evil witch’s house made of chocolate and sweets, they are faced with a highly overdressed and narcissistic witch that resembles a stereotypical WAG. Walking in with her tight black dress and dark shades, it is an interesting but brilliant choice of character. Sarah Pring encapsulates the wickedness of the witch well with her cackled laugh and sinister gait.
The music itself echoes the playful nature of the show, with a bouncy upbeat score that transitions into other exaggerative moods. Each scene is heightened by the music, which gives it life and power. Performed in English, it brings a sense of accessibility to the piece, making it great for all ages.
Opera North’s Hansel and Gretel is visually engaging and vocally stunning. The simple storyline mirrored with the vibrancy of the music and creative technology, makes it perfect for newbies to opera.
Information on the show can be found here.