Hansel and Gretel

by Engelbert Humperdinck

English libretto and stage direction by Tom Boyd

Orchestra conducted by the Musical Director William Bell

 

"This delightful new production by producer/librettist Tom Boyd, conducted by William Bell, is the best English version I have ever seen." The Gloucestershire Echo -- (click here to read more)

"An evening to savour for children and adults alike" The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard

CLICK ABOVE to see "the Father comes home" and to hear the Father telling the Mother where the witches ride

CHELTENHAM: Bacon Theatre 14,15,17 & 18 December --- CIRENCESTER: Sundial Theatre 21 & 22 December 1999

CAST

Gretel: Catherine Benson

Hansel: Debra Blake/Erin Johnson

Mother: Claire Bartram

Father: Niall Hoskin

The Sandman: Susan Black/Jeanette Gallant/Catrine Kirkman

The Dew Fairy: Jeanette Gallant/Joan Self

The Witch: Maria Moll

 TOM BOYD'S ENGLISH LIBRETTO OF HANSEL AND GRETEL

available for £5.00 sterling or $10.00 US + p & p from Belcanto Opera

 CLICK ABOVE to hear the Sandman and The Evening Prayer xxxxx CLICK ABOVE for ACT III - when the children wake up

Prelude Ballet

GRETEL: Susie little Susie, pray tell us the news...the geese are going barefoot because they’ve no shoes. The ganders can’t pay, so the cobblers refuse. Pity little goslings that can’t afford shoes.

HANSEL: Goosey, silly goosey! If I had to choose, I’d rather have a plateful of food and no shoes. If goosey comes my way, I’ll hazard a hunch...she’ll be on my table next Sunday for lunch!

HANSEL: Creamy pudding covered with jam...the Lord God knows how hungry I am. How thick is the cream on the milk? Let’s taste it...

 

 

FATHER: Down in Waldshut, where I have been, there's the biggest fair there you've ever seen...bands were playing, flags were flying, so much spending! Everyone was buying. Found a pitch with passers-by...got my brooms out and I began to cry "Buy brooms here! Buy brooms here! You'd think there'd been a sweeping crisis! I was sold out at the highest prices!

CLICK HERE to see and hear "The Father Comes Home" on YouTube

CLICK HERE to see and hear the Father singing "Where the Witches ride" on YouTube

 

 

GRETEL: Oh, Hansel! Hansel! What shall we do? We’ve both been so naughty...especially you! We ought to have thought they might want to find us. HANSEL: Hush! There’s a voice there behind us. Listen to the trees in the glade: "Children, chldren", they murmur, "why aren’t you afraid?"

Click above to hear GRETEL'S SONG

THE SANDMAN: I am the Sandman, hello! (whoosh!). I'm quite a friendly fellow (whoosh!) So sorry I alarmed you (whoosh!) I'd die before I harmed you (whoosh!) I've brought along a grand surprise...magic sand to splinkle in your eyes., If the magic's real, you'll feel a yawn, then your eye-lids droop, and you'll be gone to Slumberland to dream the night away.

CLICK HERE to go to top of page to see and hear the Sandman song and Evening Prayer on YouTube

THE DEW FAIRY: I'm here when day is dawning, on duty every morning. My job is sprinking dew drops on each leaf - one or two drops...plink! plonk! plink! plonk! I splatter droplets here and there, on blooms and blossoms everywhere, so the air is sweet with flowers throughout the waking hours.

Finale Act II - The Fourteen Angels ballet

THE WITCH: (to Hansel) Hi, sweetie pie! I’ve brought you a meaty pie. Eat, Ducky, or you’ll die. To make you fat, that is my mission. I’m dedicated to enforced nutrition!

And when day ends...up high I fly, to meet my friends up in the sky. I ride alone until I see a witch’s clone who looks like me! We swoop and soar... we’re joined by more... first three or four, then by the score! And in a group, we whoop and roar!

CLICK ABOVE to see the Witch's scene ......... CLICK ABOVE to see H & G outwit the witch and are reunited with their parents - end of ACT III

Hooray! Shout it out...the witch is dead! She's in there and she won't survive.

Hooray! No more need to live in dread...we don't care if she burns alive!
Finale Act III  

FATHER: Children, mark this lesson well! Those who cast a nasty spell come to grief - no relief - from the brimstone fires of Hell! Evil never wins the day...that is what the angels say. Bad is punished, good prevails. That's the moral message in these tales. Yes, do your best and you'll please the Lord. Virtue is its own reward!

ALL: When life brings you misery, God sends blessings down to thee! (curtain

 (Hansel & Gretel photos by Steven McCrudden, Regency Studio, Cheltenham)

REVIEWS

The Gloucestershire Echo. 16 December 1999

Company delights with performance

Humperdinck’s masterpiece opera, Hansel and Gretel, which traditionally heralds the run-up to a German Christmas, is not well known in England. This delightful new production at the Bacon Theatre by producer/librettist Tom Boyd, conducted by William Bell, is the best English version I have ever seen.

Well sung and acted, it preserves the fairy-tale atmosphere in a translation which respects the composer’s intentions without losing any of the immediate impact of the story on an English audience.

It is a pure delight for adults as well as children.

The soloists in the production by Bel Canto Opera are all experienced professionals. Catherine Benson, as Gretel, sang with radiant sweetness. Debra Blake, in the difficult role of her brother Hansel, was vocally secure...Niall Hoskin, the father, sang with warm tone and fluent diction. The other singers, Claire Bartram, Susan Black and Joan Self, were excellent, while Maria Moll played the wicked witch with a shrewd twinkle in her eye.

Full marks too, to the young dancers and the children who provided the background and the continuity to the story.

Praise is also due to the orchestra which followed every change of mood with great sensitivity.

Ronald Kay


The Wilts. and Gloucestershire Standard. 23 December 1999

Musical enchants audience

Producer and librettist Tom Boyd, in his programme notes for Hansel and Gretel, rejects the fashionable contemporary interpretation of Humperdinck’s operatic masterpiece as an exploration of the darker side of man’s nature, and states his interntion of ‘returning it to the children where it belongs. He successfully reverts to the traditional portrayal of the tale of two lost children at the mercy of a child-eating witch as a musical fairy tale in which good prevails and the "forces of the night" are more comic that evil. And while a Tom Boyd libretto will always contain contemporary references and humour, the treatment is traditional. And strangely, for a tale set in a Black Forest summer, the production seems singularly appropriate as part of the festive season in England.

In casting Hansel and Gretel, Bel Canto had to look beyond its usual stalwarts and only Sue Black, unrecognisable as the Sandman, and Joan Self as the Dew Fairy will be familiar to Bel Canto audiences. They gave their usual immaculate performances.

The capacity to attract distinguished performers from further afield marks a further step in the development of Bel Canto Opera , particularly in recruiting the distinguished soprano Maria Moll, who has played the witch in a production by the English National Opera, no less. She very nearly stole the show, her lyrics clear, her characterisation a subtle blend of the villainous and the comic and played with a definite twinkle in the eye.

But it is the leads which largelydetermine the success of a production and the title roles in Hansel and Gretel are particularly demanding not only because of their size but also the demands they make on adult actors playing children. Both Catherine Benson as Gretel and Erin Johnson as Hansel were totally convincing. Miss Benson sang with great clarity and sweetness, while Miss Johnson was equally at home in the more difficult role of her mischievous urchin brother. Their duets were a particular delight.

Claire Bartram as the hard-pressed mother and Niall Hoskin as the humane father also sang and performed impressively. The excellent dance teams of good fairies and witches supplied the symbolism, and the chorus of children liberated by the witch’s demise added to the final enchantment.

The orchestra performed with its usual smooth efficiency under William Bell’s direction...it was an evening to savour for adults and children alike and maintained Bel Canto’s burgeoning reputation.

Stuart Russell

 

 

 

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