An Imaginative Hansel and Gretel That’s Solid Musically with Well-Suited Cast

SpainSpain Humperdinck: Hansel und Gretel, Teatro Real Orchestra, Paul Daniel (conductor), Madrid Teatro Real, 24.01.2015 (JMI)


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Hansel: Alice Coote
Gretel: Sylvia Schwartz
Witch: José Manuel Zapata
Peter: Bo Skovhus
Gertrude: Diana Montague
Sandman: Elena Copons
Dewman: Ruth Rosique

Glyndebourne Festival Production
Direction: Laurent Pelly (original)
James Bonas (revival)
Stage: Barbara de Limburg
Costumes: Laurent Pelly
Lighting: Joël Adam


Hansel und Gretel is not a very popular opera in Spain. I would say it’s the opposite, especially if one compares its performances here with those taking place in Germany, where around Christmas almost every opera house stages it before audiences filled with young people. As everyone knows, the work is based on a tale by the Grimm Brothers, and it is as cruel as many other children’s stories, but with a happy ending. Humperdinck’s music has some beautiful moments, especially the sleep of the two protagonists in the forest, but it is not very exciting for the opera goer. The performance offered by Teatro Real was good, with an attractive and imaginative stage production, solid musical direction and a vocally well-suited cast.

 The production bears the signature of Laurent Pelly, and it premiered successfully at Glyndebourne in 2008. The sets are attractive overall, particularly in Act I which takes place in a house made from a cardboard box; and in the imaginative third act, where the witch’s house is a supermarket and all the food is sold at a 100% discount. The second act features a forest of mostly truncated trees with plastic bags in their branches. The costumes are appropriate and bring the action into modern times. The stage direction is particularly good with the children and the witch.

The music was in the hands of Paul Daniel. This conductor has been in the pit of Teatro Real on several occasions, for operas from the 20th century. I’ve always found him to be a very reliable conductor, and he proved it once again. He cSet featured imageonducted with care and gave an outstanding interpretation of the children’s dream. The orchestra offered an excellent performance under his baton.

 The siblings of the opera’s title were sung by British mezzo soprano Alice Coote (Hansel) and Spanish soprano Sylvia Schwartz (Gretel). Both of them were quite good on stage and in their vocal interpretations as well. I particularly enjoyed Sylvia Schwartz’s Gretel, in her best performance that I can remember.

 José Manuel Zapata did really well as the Witch. His characterization was outstanding and gave much life to the final act. The parents were Bo Skovhus (Peter), who was fine, and Diana Montague (Gertrude), who has a somewhat dry voice and is a little tight at the top.

José Mª Irurzun

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