Hansel and Gretel

by Engelbert Humperdinck

At the San Diego Civic Theatre

Once upon a time, two children enter the dark woods leaving a trail of bread crumbs to find their way home. The forest holds many mysteries, disembodied voices carry on the wind, eyes seem to follow them from the knots, burls, and boles in the twilight of the trees. Lost, in the middle of nowhere, they come across a gingerbread house festooned with candy and sweets, a confectionary castle of delectable delights, which holds a dark secret that threatens their very lives.

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel is a surreal production featuring astonishing life-sized puppets designed by Victoria’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop, a to bring the dreamlike forest, and countless whimsical visual delights to life. Enchanting and accessible, Engelbert Humperdinck's score, which will be performed in English, is filled with drama and wonder, and is the perfect holiday entertainment to charm the whole family.


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!

Print Synopsis

Hansel and Gretel

Act I
The hut of the broom-maker, at the edge of the forest. Hansel and Gretel play, quarrel, and reconcile in a dance. Their mother, Gertrude, enters and is angry to find them idle, rather than working. In her anger, she knocks over the pitcher of milk a neighbor has brought. The children had hoped the milk would be used for a rice pudding, a rare treat in their poverty-stricken home. An angry and desperate Gertrude, knowing that there will be no supper for her family, sends the children out to pick strawberries in the forest. An off-stage song announces the return of Peter, her husband, apparently drunk as usual. He has celebrated his success selling his brooms at the village market and has brought home sausages, bread and other food. When he asks Gertrude where the children are, she tells him that she has sent them to the forest. Peter tells her about the wicked witch who lives there using sweetmeats to lure children to her lair, where she bakes them in her oven. Horrified, Gertrude and Peter rush out to the forest in search of their children.

Act II
The forest, evening. An orchestral prelude depicts the Witch’s Ride. As the children search for strawberries in the dark forest, Gretel weaves a garland of flowers and sings of a little man who lives in there. Hansel crowns his sister with the garland, calling her “Queen of the Forest,” as night falls. The pair soon realizes that they have eaten all the strawberries and lost their way. They are now truly frightened, calling out for their father and mother. The Sandman comes, throwing magic dust as they sing their evening prayer and 14 angels descend to protect them in their sleep.

Act III
The forest, morning. The Dewman awakens the children and they notice a little house made of confectionery. They begin to nibble at the extraordinary structure, which Gretel thinks must be a gift from the angels. But as they taste the house, they hear a voice within. The Witch appears and casts a rope around the neck of the unsuspecting Hansel, putting him in a cage. In order to fatten Hansel up for her recipe, the Witch prepares more food for him. Meanwhile Gretel obtains the magic wand, frees Hansel from his cage, and the two children push the Witch into the oven. They then break the spell which had imprisoned other children in a gingerbread fence encircling the house. Peter and Gertrude, searching for their children enter. As the oven explodes, the Witch, now a giant cookie, is extracted and all cheer.