Hansel and Gretel

by Engelbert Humperdinck

At the San Diego Civic Theatre

Whimsical sets, larger than life puppets, and great singers bring the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel to life on the opera stage. This colorful production of Engelbert Humperdinck's beloved opera is performed in English with English text projected above the stage, so children of all ages can enjoy the story. This uplifting take on the classic tale is filled with drama and wonder, and will charm the whole family.

Hansel and Gretel tells the story of two children who become lost in a dark and mysterious forest. In the middle of nowhere, they come across a gingerbread house festooned with candy and sweets, a confectionery castle of delectable delights, which holds a dark secret that threatens their very lives. Using their wit, and each other, the two children outsmart an evil witch and make their escape from the forest. With its beautiful, folk-music inspired themes, including the famous "Evening Prayer," this opera will delight and charm audiences of all ages.

The approximate run time is 2 hours, including one 20 minute intermission. Sung in English with projected English translations.

PRE-OPERA LECTURE: The pre-opera lecture begins at 6:40pm before the new start time of 7:30pm for evening performances. The Sunday matinee pre-opera lecture begins at 1:10pm before the 2:00pm curtain.

MAIN STAGE POST-OPERA TALK-BACKS: Stay after the performance for a Talk-Back. Once the curtain falls, there will be a 10-minute break, then join us back in the theatre in the Dress Circle where you can ask questions of the stars, cast, and find out what really happens onstage and backstage!

Hansel and Gretel

Once upon a time in a land not too far away there was a beautiful town. The town was full of happy children. On the outskirts of town, not too far away, there was a dark forest called Ilsenstein. It was rumored in hushed tones to be the home of a dangerous witch who would turn children into gingerbread, and it was said that already 14 children had been lost to the Gingerbread witch, but only some people believed that.

On the far side of town there lived a very poor broom-maker, his wife and their children, a boy named Hansel and a girl called Gretel. One day Hansel and Gretel were left at home, as their mother had gone to town to find food for her starving family. Hansel and Gretel tried very hard to work but they were so hungry. Gretel warned him to stop complaining and she showed him a jug of milk for dinner! Hansel was thrilled by the thought of this tasty treat for dinner and the children danced and celebrated.

Then their mother walked in and, finding them playing around, she was livid. She demanded why they had not completed their chores. In her anger she bumped the table that held the pitcher, and it smashed, spilling all the milk. Their mother was so upset she sent the children out into the woods to pick strawberries for dinner.

Just after Hansel and Gretel had gone into the forest, their Father, the broom-maker, arrived home with an enormous feast for his family, including: eggs, ham, beans, onions, and coffee! He asked his wife where his children were, and their mother told him she had demanded they go to the Ilsenstein Forest to pick strawberries. Their father got very upset, and asked if she had heard of the Gingerbread Witch of Ilsenstein that lived in the forest and was rumored to eat children. Their mother, realizing the danger she had put her children in, ran off into the woods to search for the children with their father trailing behind her.

In the forest of Ilsenstein, Hansel collected berries and Gretel collected flowers and made a lovely flower crown as a present. The animals watched them, including a cuckoo bird who appeared in the tree. The children decided to pretend to be cuckoos. The cuckoo, of course, is an animal which is known for eating the eggs out of other birds’ nests. So they gobbled up all of the strawberries pretending they were eggs. Suddenly they realized that night had fallen and it was too dark to see. They were lost in the magical forest with creatures approaching them. These magical “will-o-wisps”, which were known for leading lost travelers astray, were very scary. As they approached the children, the Sandman appeared, a creature known for keeping children safe when they slept and bringing them good dreams. The Sandman sprinkled sleep dust in their eyes. The children then dozed off to sleep dreaming of fourteen angels surrounding and protecting them.

The next morning, as was her custom, the Dew Fairy arrived, sprinkling morning dew. With the rising of the sun she woke the sleeping Hansel and Gretel. The children awoke and realized they had both had the same amazing dream of fourteen angels protecting them throughout the night. Then they looked around the forest and saw a giant house made of gingerbread and began to eat it.

The children thought they heard a voice from the house, but dismissed it as the wind. But then, out of the house came an old scary woman. She grabbed Hansel, and introduced herself as Rosina Sugartooth, a kind humanitarian. The children were not convinced and turned to leave. At that moment the old woman became a witch and summoned her magical powers to cast a spell on the children that would only allow them to move if she commanded it. With the help of her gingerbread cookies, the witch put Hansel in a cage in her house. She then released Gretel from the spell and ordered her to prepare, for soon they would be feasting on her brother. Gretel ran inside.

The witch and her cookies inspected the fire and the witch made a plan; she would bake Gretel first by pushing her into the fire and magically transforming her into a gingerbread cookie, and then Hansel afterwards. When Gretel returned the witch asked Gretel to check inside the fire to see if the cookies were done. Hansel quietly warned his sister, so Gretel pretended to not understand what the witch wanted. The witch, exasperated, got close to the fire and demonstrated what she wanted. As she did so, Gretel released Hansel from the cage. They snuck up behind the witch and pushed her into the fire! The children were elated. They danced around and decided to treat themselves to yet more of the gingerbread house.

Suddenly the fire exploded. As the smoke cleared from the explosion, Hansel and Gretel realized the gingerbread cookies were children from town who had been magically transformed. The children were still under the witch’s spell and unable to move, but with the death of the witch they were children again. Hansel and Gretel helped free the children using the witch’s magic spell.

Far off in the woods, Hansel and Gretel’s parents appeared and, having found their children, gave them both big hugs. The children gathered around and their father and reminded everyone of the miracle they had just witnessed, and how love can always banish evil.

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