Make-believe Hansel and Gretel

Oh to be a child again.

I saw the opening night of the Canadian Opera Company’s new Hansel and Gretel tonight before a delighted sell-out crowd at the Four Seasons Centre. While there were children present both in the show & in the audience, we were all given ample opportunities to regress a few years.

It’s a make—believe Hansel & Gretel because we’re encouraged to use our imaginations.
While a romantic & realistic staging –where you see woods & angels & witches –might offer more in the way of story-book magic, there is ultimately something stultifying about a literal rendition of such an opera, to say nothing of the risk of kitsch.

19-20-04-MC-D-0438-443

(foreground) Krisztina Szabó as Gertrude and Russell Braun as Peter with (background, l-r) Simone Osborne as Gretel and Emily Fons as Hansel in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Hansel & Gretel, (photo: Michael Cooper)

Director Joel Ivany and his creative team – Costume Designer Ming Wong, Lighting Designer JAX Messenger, and Set & Projection Designe S. Katy Tucker –went in an entirely different direction as we heard in Ivany’s recent interview.

portrait

Joel Ivany, artist in the city

The opera is set in modern-day Toronto. How does one reconcile that with the fairy-tale, the witch, and the forest? I think if you’re a child this is less of a problem. Indeed maybe that’s a lesson for those resistant to Regietheater & modernized interpretations. If you watch through the eyes of a child, you’ll have a much better time.

You have nothing to lose but your stipulations.

19-20-04-MC-D-0499

(l-r) Russell Braun as Peter, Krisztina Szabó as Gertrude and Michael Colvin as The Witch (photo: Michael Cooper). This picture is a big clue to Ivany’s interpretation.

I was especially taken by the performance of Russell Braun as Peter, the children’s father, a baritone who’s been mostly playing tortured unhappy people for the COC over the past decade. I was reminded of his lovely singing as Chou En Lai in Nixon in China when he is the gentle voice of kindness & hope. The voice rang out tonight with a beautiful colour, no doubt helped by the acoustic support offered by the set design.

But it’s a team effort. Krisztina Szabó as Gertrude is a perfect partner for Braun.   Simone Osborne as Gretel looked & sounded wonderful. Emily Fons as Hansel was a remarkable actor, although I think we all enjoyed Michael Colvin’s Witch the most, both dramatically and for some brilliant singing.  Anna-Sophie Neher was enjoyable as The Sandman & Dew Fairy.

Johannes Debus led the COC Orchestra in a lyrical reading of the score.

I’ll be seeing it again, and suggest that anyone with imagination check this out.

This entry was posted in Opera, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Make-believe Hansel and Gretel

  1. Pingback: #COCgingerbread: Joel Ivany softens a Grimm tale of cruelty | barczablog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s