Hansel and Gretel/LA Opera

by Michelle Sandoval

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 17, 2018

Susan Graham as the Witch in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Hansel and Gretel" (photo ©Cory Weaver)
Susan Graham as the Witch in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Hansel and Gretel" (photo ©Cory Weaver)  

Most children grow up having fairy tales read to them right before bed. These versions are usually scaled down because many fairy tales have gruesome and violent undertones. Regardless, they are also sprinkled with magic and teach children valuable lessons about life and good behavior. "Hansel and Gretel" was always one of my favorites growing up — there was just something about a house constructed of gingerbread and candy, and inhabited by a witch that I found fascinating. Now, decades later, the LA Opera is bringing it to life on stage for a limited engagement. Playing now at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, "Hansel and Gretel" is the perfect holiday show that is sure to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth this Christmas.

The original story, which was written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, centers around two naughty children who get drawn into the wicked world of a forest witch by a cottage made of confections and candy. The German composer Engelbert Humperdinck adapted it in 1892 from a libretto by his sister, Adelheid Wette. Here an English translation by Richard Sparks, originally performed in 2006, is used.

Directed by Doug Finch, the production features a handful of enchanting creatures that watch over the children while they sleep, bringing yet another dreamlike quality to the already magical experience. The children were played by two very talented women; Liv Redpath as Gretel, and Sasha Cooke as Hansel. The chemistry between the two was electric, as they brought the audience to roaring laughter during their brother/sister fights, or elicited their sympathy when they so desperately tried to protect each other. Their vocals seemed to cast a spell in the theater, with theatergoers hanging onto every word. Both gave stellar performances, masterful and as sweet as the candy adorning the witch's cottage.

The witch (my favorite character) is portrayed by the magnificent mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. A regular at operatic staples like The Metropolitan Opera, the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House, and many more, this Grammy winner was a rare delight to see on stage. She brought so much character to the witch, lighting up the theatre with both her impeccable voice and absolute command of the stage. Seeing her perform live was truly a great holiday gift.

Not only does Doug Finch direct an enchanting show, he also designed the scenery and costumes, which were like a watercolor children's book come to life. The beauty he created was whimsical and hypnotizing, invoking the imaginative innocence of childhood. And his creature creations were just as memorable, such as the ten magical beasts of all shapes and sizes that left us longing to know the story behind each and every one.

The outstanding orchestra, under the direction of the company's musical director James Conlon, is succeeded in bringing vibrancy to every scene.

The legend of "Hansel and Gretel" is one that has lived in the hearts of its readers for centuries. Bravo to the LA Opera for keeping it's magic very much alive. So, grab the family (and follow the breadcrumbs) to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a show that will fill your heart with holiday cheer.

"Hansel and Gretel" runs through December 15th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. For tickets and information call (213) 972-7211 or visit www.laopera.com