‘Hansel and Gretel’ may be a fairy tale for children but the version brought to the stage envisioned by the Los Angeles Opera is an absolute delight for romantics of all ages. A great deal of the credit goes to Douglas Fitch, serving as director and designer. He has created imaginative sets that bring the story to life.
In addition, the members of the cast fit snugly into their roles and boast excellent voices.
The music by Engelbert Humperdinck (the original) has a lilt that makes it eminently hummable.The English libretto makes it easy to follow, with or without the supertitles.
The two children are played by Lucy Shaufer in the trouser role of Hansel and Maria Kanyova as the fey Gretel. Although they are both women, they manage to convey the boisterousness of youngsters. Shaufer has been impressive in other roles with the Los Angeles Opera and continues to shine in mezzo roles. Kanyova, a newcomer, is charming and has a shimmering soprano voice.
The mother and father, both well cast, were played by Luana DeVol and Donnie Ray Albert. Albert has a luminous baritone voice and he used it effectively as the happy-go-lucky, and slightly inebriated, father.
Graham Clark has a wonderful time as the notorious witch. Instead of the black-cloaked crone with the conical hat, he wears a blond wig, pink tutu with numerous petticoats and stockings embellished with red balls. Although this is not the conventional witch, he does get to ride on his/her broom, one of the many pleasant surprises of the production.
There are many wonderful treats, including the dance of the wicker furniture, the arrival of the strange and friendly beasts of the forest and the edible gingerbread house. Not to give anything away, the witch is shoved into a big oven, the gingerbread children turn into real live boys and girls, and Hansel and Gretel are saved.
Alan Gilbert, a new favorite with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and proved his ability again.
One of the joys of attending this opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion comes from noticing the many boys and girls in attendance. It was a glorious fashion show in miniature with the children all dressed to the nines. They were all treated to gingerbread cookies, and undoubtedly became opera fans immediately.