Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


DVD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

alternatively
DVD: Crotchet


Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854–1921)
Hänsel und Gretel (1893)
Ludmil Kuntschew (baritone) – Peter; The Witch; Alexandra Petersamer (mezzo) – Gertrud; Sabine Noack (mezzo) – Hänsel; Cornelia Marschall (soprano) – Gretel; Viktorija Kaminskaite (soprano) – Sandman; Dewman
Children’s Chorus and supernumeraries of the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau
Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau/Markus L. Frank
Directed by Johannes Felsenstein; Set and Costume Design: Stefan Rieckhoff; Dramaturgy: Susanne Schulz
Directed for Television and Video by Brooks Riley
rec. live at the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau in 2007
Sound format PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Picture format 16:9
ARTHAUS MUSIC 101321 [98:00]
Experience Classicsonline

Even before the opera begins we are shown pictures of starving children as backdrop to the stills of the main characters. During the overture there is footage, supposedly, around WW1, of mass scenes and close-ups of more starving children. Later still comes archive material from WW2 and even the Vietnam War. The focus is clearly on children in exposed situations.
 
Hänsel und Gretel as a socio-critical opera – does it seem strange? No, maintains Susanne Schulz, principal dramatic adviser of the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau in an essay in the booklet for this issue. Fairytales may always have been permeated with escapism, reflecting dreams rather than reality, but Hänsel und Gretel, especially in Ludwig Bechstein’s version, which was Humperdinck’s source for his opera, firmly focuses on the social misery of millions of people during the 19th century. Hunger is the central theme in the first act and the triggering factor for the children’s decision to go out into the woods. The realism in the first act, where child labour is another ingredient, is striking and stands in sharp relief from the following scenes, which should be seen more as the children’s dream visions. They do indeed dream in act II but in this production it seems that the whole opera, apart from the first act is a dream.
 
When the children go to sleep in the wood they are nominally still in their home, the fragments of the broken pot still on the floor and they say their evening prayers in front of their own beds. During the dream pantomime a row of children – even a Lucia with candles in her hair! – walk in a procession and line up at the back of the stage, where a big decorated Christmas tree is erected. When Hänsel and Gretel went to sleep before the pantomime they were dressed in their simple every-day clothes; when they wake up the next morning they are beautifully dressed. They find the gingerbread house and are being watched from above by their parents, who had been there in the wood/the family’s kitchen even earlier to tuck them up in their beds. Now the father ‘disguises’ himself by putting a cloth over his head and comes down to the children. But it isn’t really he who is the Witch, it’s an ugly doll that he lends his voice to and Hänsel and Gretel also have dolls, symbolizing themselves. It is a kind of puppet theatre within the opera. Consequently at the end of this scene it is the Witch Doll that is thrown into the fireplace.
 
Making a dream opera of a fairytale opera may seem natural from one point of view – but aren’t the elements of dream present already? In the first act Gertrud, the mother, is as usual an evil person – but probably not just to be evil: the financial situation for the family is strained to say the least, not being improved by Peter’s, the father’s, heavy drinking. In the dream they are still frightened of Peter, but they seem to get confidence in him in time and Gertrud, who is in the background, looks at the children with warmth. At the end there is a really jolly family reunion and all the social problems seem solved. It is a fairytale and a dream, but isn’t this too uncomplicated? Maybe not – a dream can also be a vision but it is well childish if the problems are to be solved by throwing the Witch in the fireplace. Still – the historical, and not so historical, pictures aroused intrinsically strong feelings but then they vanish almost as soon as the topic is introduced.
 
Such reservations apart – and who says that opera’s most important mission is to give solutions to problems politicians have failed to solve – this is a thought-provoking, different and engaging performance. Johannes Felsenstein and his ensemble in Dessau are clearly making engaging productions and the ensemble is obviously deeply involved. This is music theatre that can only be achieved with a group of singers who get time to creep into their roles and interact. Especially the rapport between Sabine Noack’s Hänsel and Cornelia Marschall’s Gretel is truly congenial. One believes in them. Both are also excellent singers. Ludmil Kuntschew is more of a character-singer, but that is what a good ‘Witch’ should be and with his flexible face he makes the most of his opportunities. Alexandra Petersamer, whom I recently saw as a splendid Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde from Dessau, has a classy voice, though as Gertrud she has few opportunities to really show that. However, she acted convincingly, first and foremost in the first act. I hope to hear more of the glittering soprano Viktoria Kaminskaite, whose Sandman and Dewman, were more or less the same character, which they probably are in the real fairy-world. The children’s chorus were good and Markus L. Frank led a well-paced performance. I have always found the overture to this opera with its Wagnerian sound-world too long – it takes almost five minutes before it starts living – and having seen the opera in the theatre in company with 1200 children in ages between 6 and 12 I know that they feel the same. Once into the first act the performance caught fire and then we were suddenly at the end before one could say Jack Robinson.
 
The sets are attractive and the opera is filmed in a rather straight-forward way but with fine care for interesting details. My appetite for more productions from the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau has certainly been whetted.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.