Hansel and Gretel next Thursday!

So next week, I’m going to see Opera Studio Oxford ‘s inaugural production, Hansel and Gretel, which I’m incredibly excited about. For one, it’s a nice little evening soiree into Oxford, a chance to catch up with some friends there, and a cultured evening – but more importantly, I’m really looking forward to supporting such a brave young company. Putting on such a large show for their first performance is a really good indicator of their ambitions in this field, and by all accounts it seems that it’s going to be amazing!

I’m not that comfortable with at opera – a lack of practical orchestral experience more than anything, I think – and I think that my main problem with it is a lack of familiarity. So this week, I’ve been researching Hansel und Gretel and having a sneaky listen to it, so that I’ll actually know what I’m talking about when I say it’s amazing, as I’m sure it will be! Timothy Anderson, the Musical Director (and friend of mine!), has been kind enough to write up his own thoughts about the fundamental German-ness of this opera, and one sentence stuck out in particular:

“It’s undoubtedly quintessentially German, but is totally comprehensible to all in a way that very few operas are.”

Excellent. This sounds like my type of opera. I researched the plot a little bit so I have some idea what’s going on – despite it being in English, I’m allergic to vibrato and can’t comprehend anything that oscillates even slightly. The difference in plot between the opera and the traditional fairy tale is quite startling: the mother and father are painted quite differently!

The music also sounds really interesting. I don’t know much Humperdinck but a cursory wikipedia-ing reveals that he was one of the first components of Sprechgesang (speak-singing) which I think is quite interesting, even if there isn’t any in Hansel and Gretel. Also, what are the chances of two musicians being called Englebert Humperdinck? You’d be surprised!

This is an adorable 1929 recording of 250 children singing an extract from the opera with the Halle Orchestra:

Aren’t they adorable? It reminds me a lot of April Shower from Bambi, which was recorded 20ish years later and released in 1942. I actually think the sound quality is better on the Hansel and Gretel recording. Odd!

Tim managed to source an orchestra of musicians from the London conservatoires, and a couple of my friends are playing in it: I’ll be interested to see the ensemble and to quiz both the MD and the players about whether they were comfortable with the number of rehearsals they’d had. I’m quite interested in the logistics of this production and to see just how easy (or hard!) it was to stage such a large-scale work. I know that a lot of work has gone into this production – I think they’ve been planning it since last September or something crazy like that! – and it’s simultaneously exciting and quite nerve-wracking to see the final product. And I’m not even involved in it!

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