Hansel & Gretel
Engelbert Humperdinck’s masterpiece is far more than just a fairy tale. It presents the haunting themes of the unsettling Grimm story with enchanting music that has earned it the status of one of the most loved operas in the repertoire. The witch is played by Susan Bullock who has sung Wagner the world over – from Australia to Japan. Following her 2017 triumph in our Jenufa (Susan Bullock takes ownership of the matriarch – this performance would grace any stage in the world, Sunday Times) returns to the Theatre in the Woods to terrify Hansel and Gretel and to bewitch you.
With the orchestra of English National Opera
Sung in German with surtitles
Before their parents return, Hansel and Gretel must tackle a lot of housework. Hansel is too hungry to work; Gretel coaxes him to carry on. There is a delicious tempting bottle of milk which a neighbour has given their mother to make rice pudding.
Hansel can’t resist it and sips the top cream. Gretel tries to scold him but she is caught up his high spirits. Their mother returns and is very angry. Threatening to beat them, she bumps into the precious milk and knocks it over: that is the end of their supper.
She sends the children out to scavenge for whatever they can find and prays to God that she will be able to provide food for her family. The father, a brush maker, returns home. Though he is drunk he has acquired enough food for the family by selling all his brushes.
His wife is ecstatic at such a bonanza – until she remembers how she raged at the children and sent them out alone to scavenge. The father is horrified; he has heard about a Witch who kidnaps children and eats them. They set out in search of their children.
Hänsel and Gretel are happy in their adventure. Gretel crowns Hänsel with a garland; he takes the garland and crowns her Queen of Make-believe. In their make-believe world, Gretel orders food from her servants. A cuckoo calls. They realise they have eaten all the food and night is imminent. They know their mother will be furious if they don’t get home soon with something for the family to eat.
They try to retrace their steps and realise they are lost. They hear a distant voice but are too frightened to call out for help. A kind little man appears. He tells them to relax and close their eyes and drift off to dreamland. He sprinkles them with sand and the children drift off. Gretel reminds Hänsel to say their prayers. Angels watch over them.
It is morning and the dew fairy rouses them with a splattering of dew. They are excited to see an edible house and they have a nibble. A Witch emerges and captures them. She imprisons Hänsel, telling Gretel that her brother needs fattening up. It is Gretel’s task to help her with her oven.
Sneakily, Gretel uses a spell to free Hänsel, and the two children push the Witch into the oven. Because the Witch is dead, all her previous captive children come back to life. Hänsel and Gretel rejoice when their parents appear. The family is reunited.
Conductor: George Jackson
Director: Stephen Medcalf
Designer: Yannis Thavoris
Lighting design: Jason Taylor
Hansel: Caitlin Hulcup
Gretel: Soraya Mafi
Witch / Mother: Susan Bullock
Father: William Dazeley
Dew Fairy: Lizzie Holmes
Sandman: Eleanor Sanderson-Nash