August 11, 2008
Loud Music Tarnishes Hansel and Gretel
JOINING an almost capacity audience for Friday's Hansel and Gretel opera in the TSB Showplace, one could see why it has found its way into hearts since penned by Englebert Humperdinck in 1893.
No, not the pop-singer, but a Wagner contemporary.First, it's an easy-on-the-ear goodtriumphs- over-evil story. Several songs have become operatic pops, there's scope for humour, and opportunity for many a spectacular lighting and visual effect, none overlooked by director Michael Hurst.
Neither does the reviewer have a problem, for there are only five parts, - Gretel, Ana James; Hansel, Anna Pierard; Father, James Harrison; Mother/Witch, Helen Medlyn, plus a quick appearance for the dew fairy, so it's a comfortable opera to organise.
The music is easy on the ear, Hansel and Gretel superb in their Evening Prayer, a leit-motif referred to often, Father commanding in appearance and voice, and Helen Medlyn switches from Mother to Wicked Witch with an enthusiastic gusto.
Musical director Michael Vinten certainly kept the pace going, yet allowed time for some gorgeous rubato here and there, but why, oh why, so loud?
Only the Father managed to triumph over the persistent belt of power from mainly the woodwinds in the pit. Though the women sang bravely, even splendidly, they were often drowned out, marring an otherwise very good production.
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