> Humperdinck Hansel and Gretel DVD [IL]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854-1921)
Hänsel und Gretel
Fairy Tale Opera in Three Acts
Hänsel………………………. Liliana Nikiteanu
Gretel……………………….. Malin Hartelius
Witch……………………… ..Volker Vogel
Peter, a broom-maker (father). Alfred Muff
Gertrude, his wife………….... Gabriele Lechner
The Sandman……………….. Martina Jankova
The Dew Fairy…………....… Milena Jotowa
The Children’s Chorus of the Zurich Opera
H ouse
The Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House conducted by Franz Welser-Möst
Recorded in Zurich in 1999
TDK DVD Video DV-OPHUG [105 mins approx.]



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This Hänsel und Gretel might not be a totally satisfying experience for the ear, but it is certainly a visual treat. The imaginative and colourful production is clearly aimed at entrancing a young audience. The camera lingers over the many children in the audience before the curtain goes up; and the production seeks to hold their attention at every turn. The animated children’s chorus, for instance, is brought to the front of the stage to look at the orchestra as they play the Overture. The lighting, the sets and scenery are all calculated to fill the little ones with awe and wonder and are just frightening enough. The design of the animated witch’s house, made of cakes and sweetmeats, and pear-like nose and moving raspberry eyes is very imaginative. The witch is more of a pantomime figure and hardly sinister and the antics of her cats beguile.

Nikiteanu and Hartelius as Hänsel and Gretel are lively and unaffected and their well-known opening folk song-like duet is charming enough but I was disappointed that their prayer and its preceding Sandman’s aria failed to move me. Volker Vogel, in a misguided experiment to give the role of the witch to a tenor voice, is miscast and not spiteful or menacing enough. Alfred Muff and Gabriele Lechner are well cast as the parents, Muff particularly effective as the jollier, irresponsible yet more concerned father.

This imaginative production has plenty to appeal to children. But for the most musical versions turn to those on CD: preferably Larmore/Ziesak/Schwarz/Behrens on Teldec, or Von Otter/Bonney/Lipovsek/Tate on EMI, if you want a modern recording; or the classic Karajan set with Schwarzkopf and Grümmer, an EMI ‘Great Recordings of the Century’ reissue.

Ian Lace

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