Review: Hansel & Gretel – The Opera

Hansel and Greta Opera at Edinburgh FringeTranslator/Director, Christopher Moon-Little, brings his modern take on Engelbert Humperdink’s 1891 opera to the Edinburgh fringe for weeks two and three.

It features dual cast, largely composed of current or recent music school students – a fact which goes some way toward explaining the slightly uneven level of the performances.

The first half of the opening act has a real sense of joyful play, which quickly endears the audience to the two principal characters – sung very ably, at this performance, by Katie Coventry (Hansel) and Jenny Stafford (Gretel).

There then follows something of a lull which stretches from the first appearance of the eponymous character’s parents (purely functional characters but still played in a somewhat underwhelming manner) all the way through until the closing song of Act Two – a hauntingly beautiful re-imagining of ‘Abendsegen’ (Evening Prayer), which, despite being a lullaby, serves to re-awaken the audience ready for the final chapter.

It is in Act 3 however, where this production truly bursts into life. Sarah Denbee’s brilliantly bizarre Witch succeeds in being both humourous and un-nerving in equal measure. Occasionally sacrificing “beautiful” singing for pure character, Denbee shows a real connection to the material and puts the audience in the slightly odd paradox of rooting simultaneously for and against her – a difficult skill indeed for any performer.

All in all, this is a very watchable production and I personally consider it to be a wonderful thing that companies like this still exist as, with society seemingly moving ever closer to abandoning any sense of TRUE musical appreciation in favour of dross like Justin Timberlake (who actually somehow earns a mention in this production), to see young people both on stage and in the audience showing a love for opera is greatly reassuring – plus, I defy anyone of any age to watch this production and not go away thinking “I REALLY want one of those bubble guns the Dew Fairy uses…”.

3.5stars

Hansel & Gretel The Opera by Opera Holloway.

theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53), Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW

5.45pm (1hr 30mins) until 24th August

Book tickets here

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