Opera Scotland

Hansel and Gretel 2012Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Hansel and Gretel

Scottish Opera's 2011-12 season was its fiftieth, with celebrations in order, though the tone was muted. There was a sense of relief that the company had survived recent turmoils, and the level of activity was much reduced. The full-scale productions began in the autumn with a revival of Thomas Allen's Barber of Seville staging. In the New Year there were new productions of Hansel and Gretel and The Rake's Progress, along with a welcome revival of the vintage Tosca production. In the absence of any invitation to play the main festival in 2011, the first item in the season was a staging on the Edinburgh Fringe of Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. This was followed by a third co-operation with Music Theatre Wales at the Traverse - the highly dramatic Greek. The autumn repertoire also had a medium scale tour of Orpheus in the Underworld. In January the Russian co-productions with the Conservatoire continued, with Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery. There was also the expected Highlands and Islands concert party under the Opera Highlights label. In June, the company's 50th anniversary was celebrated with a single concert performance, well-cast, of those old stalwarts from days of yore, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

It has become fashionable in recent years for Humperdinck's masterpiece to be directed in a style which eschews the traditional child-friendly fairy-tale aspects of the plot. Instead, we have seen a far more serious approach, with the emphasis very much on drunkenness, poverty and hardship, verging on famine and starvation, even with hints of child abuse thrown in. Scottish Opera's first two productions were well in line with that pattern. The first one, by Peter Ebert, did have the witch played by a tenor, always somehow a more comic figure, but even that finished with the moving vision of angelic figures in the form of starved-looking children.

All we had previously seen of the work of Bill Bankes-Jones was an enjoyable Fledermaus a few years ago, but it now seems that he is one of those valuable directors who can take a fresh look at a piece without throwing away all the traditional elements. Anyone who has seen one or more stagings in the last twenty years may be surprised that the work really does seem to be a folk-tale for once, with the most sinister element being that the witch is mysteriously more youthful than usual. The singing and acting, from a largely unfamiliar cast, is generally excellent, avoiding tweeness. Perhaps even more important, in an opera which has a difficult reputation for large orchestra drowning the words, the conductor seems to have found a way of making it all sound a bit more subtle than usual.

Performance Cast

Hansel

Kai Rüütel

Gretel

Ailish Tynan

Gertrude mother of Hansel and Gretel

Shuna Scott Sendall

Peter a broom maker and father of Hansel and Gretel

Paul Carey Jones

Sandman

Miranda Sinani

Dew Fairy

Marie Claire Breen

Witch

Leah-Marian Jones

Performance DatesHansel and Gretel 2012

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 Feb, 19.15 8 Feb, 19.15 10 Feb, 19.15 12 Feb, 16.00

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

14 Feb, 19.15 16 Feb, 19.15 18 Feb, 19.15

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