Hansel and Gretel
Composed by Engelbert Humperdinck
Based on a poem by Adelheid Wette
Illustration by Bill Burgard

November 11 at 7:30 PM
November 12 & 13 at 8 PM
November 14 at 2 PM
Power Center

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About Hansel and Gretel
In 1890 Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, devised a dramatized version of the Grimm story of "Hänsel und Gretel" for her children to perform. In her version the parents are a much less alarming pair than they are in the fairy-tale where the mother (step-mother in the first version) is actually determined to leave the children out to die in the wood. Wette softened this, perhaps because she knew that her brother's music would supply some of the fear and drama. She also introduced the characters of the Father, the Sandman and the Dew Fairy, as well as the chorus of echoes and the angels which provided Humperdinck with scope for a ballet.

At first Wette asked her bother to compose four songs for a dramatized family play (1890). Subsequently they decided to make it a full-scale opera. The premiere, conducted by Richard Strauss, was an instant success and within a year "Hänsel und Gretel" had been produced in over 50 theatres in Germany. It soon joined the repertoire of every lyric theatre in the German-speaking world, and within 20 years had been translated into about 20 languages. Richard Strauss, a constant supporter of Humperdinck (he also conducted the premiere of Humperdinck's "Die Heirat wider Willen" in 1905) described the work as "a masterpiece of the highest quality... all of it original, new and so authentically German," despite his reservation that "the orchestration is always a little thick."

"Hansel and Gretel" was the first complete opera to be broadcast on radio (from Covent Garden, London, January 6, 1923) and the first to be transmitted live from the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, December 25, 1931.
- Viking Opera Guide

From our Newsletter
Engelbert Humperdinck (Doesn't the name just make you smile?)
According to Conductor Martin Katz, Hansel and Gretel features one character that the audience frequently forgets, the orchestra. "The orchestra is itself a character in the show," he muses. "There are very few operas in which the orchestra plays as an important role as in this one. The music is easy to listen to, but is very complicated in terms of composition, much like Strauss or Wagner."

This is one of the reasons the opera so appeals to Katz. In addition, the score calls for a children's chorus. For November's performances, the chorus will be populated with children from Lakewood Elementary in Ann Arbor. Katz greatly enjoys the opportunity to work with school-age children, a group he has only worked with on a previous staging of Hansel and Gretel. Katz views "Hansel and Gretel" as "similar to works such as the Harry Potter books, which speak to both adults and children. This opera has something for everyone. Beautiful music, familiar melodies, a favorite story and a happy ending!"

Engelbert Humperdinck's first professional opera was also his most successful one. And, keeping it all in the family, it was his sister who commissioned him to compose it. Adelheid Wette asked him to write the music for a children s play she had adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hänsel und Gretel. Initially not terribly interested, Humperdinck composed four songs for his sibling s project in 1890. As he continued to study the text, the composer became convinced of its enormous potential and within three years had devised a score praised by Richard Strauss as a masterpiece of the highest quality... original, new and so authentically German." In fact, it was largely a return to the early Romantic style of Weber with a "tip of the hat" to Richard Wagner in its dense, complex orchestration.

The opera premiered in Weimar (with Strauss himself at the podium) on December 23, 1893. Its success made Humperdinck a household name throughout much of central Europe (although, apparently not in America, where Hansel and Gretel was introduced as the work "of this great composer Pumpernickel"). Traditionally, the opera continues to be performed during the holiday season. On Christmas Day, 1931, "Hansel and Gretel" became the first opera to be broadcast from the stage of New York s Metropolitan Opera to 190 stations nationwide, initiating a legendary weekly radio series that continues to the present day.
- Rachel Francisco

Press Release
ANN ARBOR  The U-M School of Music's Opera Theatre presents Engelbert Humperdinck's delightful fairy tale opera, "Hansel and Gretel," November 11 at 7:30 PM, November 12 & 13 at 8 PM, and November 14 at 2 PM at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. The production will be sung in English using a translation by Tom Hammond. Joshua Major directs and Martin Katz conducts the University Symphony Orchestra. Humperdinck's best-known and best-loved work, "Hansel and Gretel" has been a traditional holiday season favorite in family entertainment for over 100 years.

"Hansel and Gretel" is a Mürchenspiel or "musical fairy story" in three acts, and features a libretto by Adelheid Wette (the composer's sister) based on a story by the brothers Grimm. Originally written for Humperdinck s own family's entertainment, "Hansel and Gretel" premiered at the Hoftheater in Weimar, Germany, on December 23, 1893, with composer Richard Strauss at the podium. Shortly after reviewing Humperdinck's score for the first time, Strauss wrote, "I have not seen such an important work for a long time... all that is new, original, (and) truly German." With its Wagnerian harmonic and motivic development, coupled with melodies taken from folk tunes and popular songs of his era, "Hansel and Gretel" was a brilliant and immediate success. Within a year, the opera had been performed in more than fifty German theaters. It was later translated into fifteen languages and has received performances in such places as South Africa, China, and Tunisia.

The opera opens on Hansel and Gretel dancing and playing instead of doing their chores. Their mother returns home and is enraged by the children s frivolity. In a fit of rage, she sends the children into the forest to search for strawberries. The children become lost as night comes on. They lay down to sleep and are visited by the Sandman and a host of fourteen angels. Awakened by the Dew Fairy in the morning, Hansel and Gretel are astonished to discover that they are only steps away from a cottage made of gingerbread and candy. Unknown to them, the house belongs to a wicked witch who cooks little children into gingerbread. Through cunning and wit, Hansel and Gretel trick the witch and burn her up in her own oven. The death of the witch frees other children who had been turned into gingerbread. Hansel and Gretel's parents arrive and everyone lives happily ever after.

According to conductor Martin Katz, Hansel and Gretel features one character that the audience frequently forgets, the orchestra. "The orchestra is in itself a character in the show," he muses. "There are very few operas in which the orchestra plays as an important role as in this one. The music is easy to listen to, but is very complicated in terms of composition, much like Strauss or Wagner." In addition, the score calls for a children's chorus. For the performances, children from Lakewood Elementary in Ann Arbor under the direction of Jeffrey Willets will join the UM cast. Katz greatly enjoys the opportunity to work with school-age children. Katz views "Hansel and Gretel" as "similar to works such as the Harry Potter books, which speak to both adults and children. This opera has something for everyone. Beautiful music, familiar melodies, a favorite story and a happy ending!"

Composer Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) was widely respected as a teacher. Two of his more famous pupils were Siegfried Wagner and Kurt Weill. As a young man, Humperdinck had worked with Richard Wagner as an assistant musical director for the 1881 production of "Parsifal." During a rehearsal, it was discovered that there was not enough music to cover a scene change. While Meister Wagner exploded into a towering rage, Humperdinck quietly added a few extra bars, thus creating a smoother transition for the stagehands to complete their work. Conjecture has it that Humperdinck is also responsible for the concert ending to Siegfried's Rhine Journey in "Gotterdammerung." From 1905 to 1910, Humperdinck worked with Max Reinhardt, the celebrated stage director, on incidental music to Shakespeare's "As You Like It," "The Tempest," "The Merchant of Venice," and "The Winter's Tale." Humperdinck's other operas include: "Die sieben Geislein" (1895), "Konigskinder" (1897), "Dornroschen" (1902), "Die Heirat wider Willen" (1905), and "Die Marketenderin" (1914) - none of which attained the success and status of "Hansel and Gretel."

Joining Katz and Major on the artistic team are three faculty members of the Department of Theatre and Drama. Vincent Mountain, whose designs were last seen in "Jesus Christ Superstar," designs scenery. Rob Murphy and Christianne Meyers, whose designs were last seen in "Don Giovanni" design lights and costumes respectively. UM graduate student Nikolas Caoile serves as assistant conductor and will conduct the performance on Saturday, November 13.

Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $9 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at www.uprod.music.umich.edu. The Power Center for the Performing Arts, located at 121 N. Fletcher, is handicapped accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.
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CAST (Hometown):
November 11 & 13, 2004
Gretel - Suzanne Ma (Garden Grove, CA)
Hansel - Rebecca Jo Loeb (Glen Ridge, NJ)
Mother - Julie Cross (Miami, FL)
Father - David Wilson (Grand Blanc, MI)
Sandman - Rebecca Eaddy (Milan, MI)
Dew Fairy - Kelly Daniel-Decker (Lemoore, CA)
Witch - Julie Cross (Miami, FL)

November 12 & 14, 2004
Gretel - Susan Ruggiero (Okemos, MI)
Hansel - Peiyi Wang (Beijing, China)
Mother - Monica Griffin (Kalamazoo, MI)
Father - Travis Pratt (Tifton, GA)
Sandman - Kara Alfano (Ann Arbor, MI)
Dew Fairy - Molly Spooner (Demar, NY)
Witch - Kirsten Kunkle (Fremont, OH)

Children's Chorus (all perf.): All children are students at Lakewood Elementary in Ann Arbor
Andrew Burns, Lauren Childs, Alex Dean, Aaron Dziubinski, Jasmine Edwards, Jennifer Gu, Kristina Keil, Justin Kim, Minjung Kim, Alexis Lossacco, Nick Marentay, Mario Merola, Jessica Mielewski, Amanda Norton, KayAnn Reed, Amanda Said, Inhong Shim, Cecile Simonsen, Danielle Stevens, Shelby Strohl, Tina Talarek, Yan Theros, Christian Weeden, Delaney Wright

- Kerianne M. Tupac

Scene 1 - Hansel and Gretel are bored with their tasks of darning socks and making brooms, so spend their day singing and dancing instead. When their mother returns, she is furious to discover that they have neglected their duties. In her anger, she breaks a pitcher of milk, which was the family s only food, and then orders the children out into the forest to search for berries. Left alone and in despair, she falls asleep. Father arrives home, having had a very successful day in town selling his brooms. He surprises his wife with a bag full of food, and their troubles seem over for the moment. However, when he discovers that his children have gone into the Ilsenstein forest, he tells his wife of the evil witch who lives there and who turns children into gingerbread! Horrified, the parents rush out into the woods to save their children.
Scene 2 - Meanwhile, Hansel and Gretel have been listening to the birds and enjoying their berry picking. But as night begins to fall, they realize they have lost their way. The sights and sounds of the woods, which so delighted them earlier, now begin to frighten them. They imagine dreadful creatures surrounding them. But they are calmed by the arrival of the Sandman, and he sprinkles them with his magic dust. After saying their traditional prayer, they fall fast asleep, kept safe by their guardian angels.

As dawn breaks, the Dew Fairy awakens the slumbering children, who are amazed to discover that they have shared a wonderful dream. Just then, a mysterious and tantalizing house appears, all covered with sweet things to eat. The hungry children are thrilled with the tasty house, and begin to break off bits to eat. But the frightful Witch of Ilsenstein casts her magic spell, putting Hansel into a cage and forcing Gretel to do her bidding. The witch tries to fatten the children up in order to bake them into gingerbread, but they outsmart her and push her into her very own oven! As the spell is broken, other enchanted children begin to appear. Hansel and Gretel touch them all, one by one, releasing them from the witch s magic. The children all rejoice and thank Hansel and Gretel for their freedom. The cooked gingerbread witch is pulled from the oven just as Mother and Father arrive. Delighted to find his children safe, Father reminds the children (and all of us) that even when things seem their darkest, we must not despair & happy endings do exist!

Click here to view the Hansel and Gretel program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

November 10 & 13, 2005

Julie Cross as the Mother David Wilson as the Father and Julie Cross

David Wilson Suzanne Ma as Gretel

Suzanne Ma and Rebecca Jo Loeb as Hansel Rebecca Jo Loeb

Rebecca Eaddy as the Sandman Cast

Cast Cast

Kelly Daniel-Decker as the Dew Fairy The Witch's House

Julie Cross as the Witch with Hansel and Gretel Rebecca Jo Loeb

Julie Cross Cast

Cast Cast

November 12 & 14, 2005

Peiyi Wang as Hansel Monica Griffin as the Mother

Travis Pratt as Father and Monica Griffin Travis Pratt

Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri as Gretel Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri and Peiyi Wang

Kara Alfano as the Sandman Cast

Molly Spooner as the Dew Fairy Kirsten Kumkle as the Witch

Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri and Peiyi Wang Cast