Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

‘Schiff’s Surprise’: Haydn

Many of the ingredients for a memorable concert were there, or so they initially seemed to be. Alas, ultimately what we learned more clearly than anything else was that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s new Principal Artist, András Schiff, is no conductor.

Recital of French song from Véronique Gens and Susan Manoff

It came as quite a surprise throughout much of the first half of this recital of French song, that it was the piano-playing of Susan Manoff that made the greater impression upon me than the singing of Véronique Gens.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lenneke Ruiten as Gretel and Kate Lindsey as Hänsel [Photo by Marco Borggreve]
05 Dec 2015

A Heap of Utterly Brilliant Rubbish: Hänsel und Gretel at Dutch National Opera

A fairy tale that looks like clay animation come to life, terrifies and enchants, and rakes up heaps of middle class guilt—this is Dutch National Opera’s new production of Hänsel und Gretel, set on the most attractive rubbish tip you will ever come across.

A Heap of Utterly Brilliant Rubbish: Hänsel und Gretel at Dutch

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Lenneke Ruiten as Gretel and Kate Lindsey as Hänsel

Photos by Marco Borggreve

 

Engelbert Humperdinck’s librettist and sister, Adelheid Wette, dethorned the story of Hansel and Gretel as much as she could, making the murderous parents fallible but caring, and dispatching fairy creatures to watch over the lost siblings. The witch is still a cannibal, but she is the single embodiment of danger. Even the hunger beast is tamed early on, when the father comes home laden with groceries after some lucrative broom-selling. Director Lotte de Beer puts the scariness back in by turning the tale into the escapist fantasy of a group of street children who scurry around a refuse dump like vermin, sniffing glue. Instead of angels, they dream of parents tucking them into soft, clean beds. They are terrified, not by the subconscious fear of abandonment and parental infanticide, but by real dangers—neglect, indifference and abuse. Ms De Beer’s concept indicts the world for failing to protect so many of its young while celebrating children’s imagination and resilience.

H_G_NL_2.pngKate Lindsey as Hänsel and Lenneke Ruiten as Gretel

To escape their harsh existence, the street children turn cardboard boxes into doll’s houses and fashion figurines out of earth and litter. Stage-wide video projections zoom in on their busy hands. The figurines become the singers, starting with Hansel and Gretel in a giant corn flakes box. It takes a while to get used to the singers’ latex masks and lumpy costumes. However, with regular reminders of the child puppeteers, the Hansel and Gretel “dolls” grow more affectingly human in each consecutive scene. Sets and costumes, fabulously lit by David Finn, combine the magical with the sinister. The midden in Act I provides the plastic debris for a colourful streamer forest. It is then transformed into a glistening mound of candy wrappers in lieu of the gingerbread house. The closer the children get to the Witch’s cottage, the prettier their surroundings become, and the more ominous. The Sandman’s dream dust is a crushed Valium pill. As the feathered Dew Fairy, he puts on a menacing, skeletal bird’s head. His motive for drugging the children is revealed when he turns up at the Witch’s cottage as her accomplice. Conductor Marc Albrecht ratcheted up the horror with a dungeon-dark take on the score. He consistently gave dusky orchestral colours the upper hand, with ravishing results, and expanded the symphonic breadth of the music as far as it can go. The Witch’s Ride was so ferocious, it sounded like a full-blown Witches’ Sabbath. He also created moments of hushed, spacious lyricism, most notably during the Evening Prayer. The Netherlands Philharmonic was in wonderful form, alternating full-force mettle with glowing transparency.

H_G_NL_3.pngCharlotte Margiono as Mutter Gertrud, Thomas Oliemans as Vater Peter, Kate Lindsey as Hänsel, Lenneke Ruiten as Gretel with Kathedrale Koorschool Utrecht

The singing was equally gratifying, although the sets, with no backdrop or flats, did not favour the lighter voices. Both Lenneke Ruiten as Gretel and Kate Lindsey as Hansel were at times upstaged by the orchestra. Ms Ruiten was pitch-secure and vocally spry. Moving with splay-kneed bravado and singing with unfailingly beautiful tone, Ms Lindsey made a delightful Hansel. Charlotte Margiono’s Mother sounded steadiest and roundest in the lower range. Perhaps restrained by the concealing costume and blank-faced mask, Ms Margiono’s performance was less animated than her previous roles. As her husband, Thomas Oliemans was vocally impressive, full of zing and swagger, and with pin-sharp enunciation. A few phrases in the role require a bigger baritone, but Mr Oliemans wrapped his voice around them intelligently. Hendrickje van Kerckhove sang the Sandman and Dew Fairy with dream-like clarity and the children’s chorus was very well-rehearsed. Peter Hoare’s meaty tenor served the Witch well, but was challenged at the upper and lower limits. Although sung conventionally in comic character tenor vein, this Witch was truly unnerving, not for preteens and teens perhaps (this production is not suitable for young children), but for adults aware of “what’s out there”. The Witch was not a clay doll, but a real person, a bare-chested man in a Goldilocks wig and a frilly vaudeville costume; initially a ridiculous creature, but soon emerging as a sexual predator with a basement full of traumatized children. At this moment, it becomes clear what the elaborate construction of cardboard edifices, fantasy scripts and puppetry were all about—the exorcism of this evil by burning the Witch and unlocking the basement. The festive happy ending is all the more touching for having been imagined in such wretchedness.

Jenny Camilleri


Cast and production information:

Peter — Thomas Oliemans, Gertrud — Charlotte Margiono, Hänsel — Kate Lindsey, Gretel— Lenneke Ruiten, Die Knusperhexe— Peter Hoare, Sandmännchen/Taumännchen — Hendrickje van Kerckhove, Conductor — Marc Albrecht, Director — Lotte de Beer, Set Designer — Michael Levine, Costume Designers — Clement & Sanôu, Lighting Designer — David Finn, Video — Finn Ross, Dramaturgy — Peter te Nuyl, Klaus Bertisch, Utrecht Cathedral Choir School Children’s Choir, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Seen at Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam, Thursday, 3rd December 2015.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):