Engelbert Humperdinck

The Gingerbread House, or Hänsel und Gretel

The Gingerbread House, or Hänsel und Gretel

Opera for children and adults in two acts

Libretto: Adelheid Wette

Russian text by: Ekaterina Pospelova, Olga Prokhorova

Music Director: Andrey Lebedev

Conductors: Andrey Lebedev, Alexander Zhilenkov

Stage Director: Ekaterina Odegova

Designers: Etel Ioshpa, Anna Kostrikova

Stage Choirmaster: Yulia Senyukova

Choirmaster: Martin Kantemirov

Lighting Designer: Timofey Ermolin

Drama Advisor: Mikhail Muginshtein

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission

Premiered on 8 October 2017

For children of any age

Performed in Russian

One of the best world operas for children is at the Novaya Opera now!

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel was premiered in the Weimar court theatre in 1893 and was conducted by Richard Strauss. After less than a year it was conducted by Gustav Mahler in Hamburg. The libretto based on the Grimm brothers' fairy tale was written by Humperdinck's sister Adelheid Wette. In Moscow this amazing fairy opera is known as The Gingerbread House or Hänsel und Gretel.

Stage director Ekaterina Odegova calls her production an all-family show. Transcending the boundaries of the children’s theatre, the production team has filled the performance with bright costumes and sets, interactive and funny stage scenes (for children) and overtones and cultural allusions (for their parents).

Mikhail Muginstein:

Let’s recall one of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s most popular quotes: "All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it" (The Little Prince). It is sad, because children are in many ways another universe, sincere and pure. The child’s soul addresses the best we have.

The opera Hänsel und Gretel excites by the recovery of memories and expectation of a miracle. To find oneself and each other one has to go through trials: to travel through a forest and to conquer evil. This is the only way for people to magically regenerate: Humperdinck’s opera is an example of late Romanticism with its idea of transformation. The central points are romantic bi-worldness, reality and fantasy with the anxiety and divination of the forest. Here is the final of the forest poetry by Weber, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Wagner, who had major influence on Humperdinck. Hänsel und Gretel charms with the orchestra’s intensive life with an extensive system of leitmotifs. This "mini-Wagner" piece is a poetic sketch of the German forest after Wagner’s Siegfried. The most successful musical interpretation of the Grimm brothers’ great fairy-tale Hänsel und Gretel crowns a whole musical subgenre in Germany in the 19th century, the fairylike opera (Märchenoper). Humperdinck skillfully combined the innovations of Wagner’s mythological drama with the rich life of German tradition. Like Hänsel and Gretel, the poetic unit of folklore and fantasy found its nichewithout losing its way in the forest of mythology with its tasty-looking but dangerous gingerbreads.

It is probably the best opera for children (it is produced all over the world!); the fairy-tale is certainly meant for both children and adults. It takes place on Christmas Eve, when the miracle comes to the world and brings harmony. It is achieved throughthe children’s deeds: they atone for anyevil that infects the adults. Children are better than us. Together with them we can feel the special happiness of the world’s harmony and direct our eyes to God.



The Novaya Opera’s first premiere of the season, Hansel and Gretel, is presented as a family show. I would add — a must-see show. This is pure happiness of a performance! It is just the case when you feel sorry your child is too old and there are no grandchildren yet. <…>The production is remarkable not only for its clear, witty text and true musical quality with no indulgency to the age category 0+ (the podium is taken by Andrey Lebedev who enthusiastically deals with post-Wagnerian beauties of Humperdinck’s score),but also for the stage director’s lightness and merry visual fantasies. <…>The main magic is set in the nocturnal forest, where the children got lost. It is scary but magnetic and kind at the same time. All it takes is to make some tricks with light (lighting designer is Timofey Ermolin),to timely send the artists into the stalls to make the kids jump up from their places, and to invent a train of characters, one more fantastic than another.

Ekaterina Biryukova, Colta.ru,
October 25, 2017

The production is addressed to the audience 0+ and each generation will find something to enjoy, be afraid of or be touched with. Children shout joyfully when they see a wolf, who grabs a mermaid, takes her backstage and returns munching a bone; they come to a halt when Dmitry Pianov dressed as a witch with grotesque breasts enters the stalls to hunt the little ones. The chorus of angels brings tears to sentimental adults’ eyes. Connoisseurs savour the melodies, as Ekaterina Mironycheva and Anna Sinitsyna clearly and jingly sing the children’s roles. Conductor Andrey Lebedev aptly leads the orchestra through the score in a Wagner-light style, and a true clay ocarina sounds in the pit.

Pyotr Pospelov, Vedomosti

Morality, irony, kindness and forgiving light in the Novaya Opera’s new production come through significantly but not as stereotypes; they are perceptible, but elegant and highly sincere. The significance and inevitable paradox of this opera’s designation is that children mainly react to its visual images and symbols. They will hardly see in its music what adults will hear, but it is important to begin children’s introduction to moral values and to form the spiritual basis of a human being through high quality music. <…> Bass Dmitry Orlov acts as kind but slightly weird Peter, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Saulskaya-Shulyatieva is eccentric and despotic Gertrud (it was she who sent the children in the forest!). Both characters are rich and colourful and vocally memorable and attractive.

Igor Koryabin, Belcanto.ru

The fascination of the production lies in its incredible characters inhabiting the magic forest where the children got lost. And the credit for it goes to the designer Ethel Ioshpa, a prize-winner of the Golden Mask Russian Theatrical Prize. The other designer is Anna Kostrikova. <…> Anton Bochkaryov is particularly good as a witch running around the auditorium and devouring children. Kids were screaming with fright and delight and their mothers admired his artistic presence and vocal skills. It was this bad character who raised the biggest round of applause.

Maria Chemberlen, Moskovskaya Pravda

Delighted kids enthusiastically followed the twists and turns of the production. In the intermission children’s ruckus filling the theatre’s foyer was overwhelming. They heatedly discussed with each other and with their parents all the characters and miracles happening on the stage. The sets are truly amazing and touching. And the singers’ fabulous dramatic and vocal renditions make kids and adults alike give their undivided attention to the magical story on the stage.

Vladimir Sabadash, Mir ZhenskoyPolitiki


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