Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nothing To Do On Boxing Day? Watch "Hansël und Gretel"

"Hänsel und Gretel isn't just Engelbert Humperdinck's most successful opera. It is also one of the most successful operas of all time. Premiered in 1893, the work was instantly labelled a "masterpiece" by its conductor Richard Strauss, even though it is a somewhat sanitised version of the Brothers Grimm original. Instead of an evil stepmother, as the Grimms have it, the children have a loving but scatty mother and a caring but drunken father. The opera also adds a creepy chorus of echoes to the forest scenes and 14 ballet-dancing angels, who create one of its most spinetingling moments, as the cossetingly somnolent music envelopes the children and helps them through their scary night in the wood. In Laurent Pelly's witty 2008 production for Glyndebourne, to be streamed by the Guardian for a whole week starting on Boxing Day, the tale becomes a gleefully ghoulish satire on consumerism, in which the forest is a maze of dead trees, devoid of any verdant softness. In a touch that feels all too relevant, Hänsel and Gretel's family are forced to live in a cardboard house following economic collapse; the Witch's gingerbread residence is a free-for-all supermarket; and the children who are freed at the end, after the Witch is thrown into her own ovens, are obese, having gorged themselves on the supermarket's high-sugar, high-fat goodies. Usually, there's a strong panto element to the portrayal of the Witch, but here the emphasis is on horror: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke plays her as a murderous matriarch, sharpening her knife, stripping down to her underwear, revealing wisps of mouldy hair under her wig and a ladder of bodyhair rising up her abdomen." [Source] Watch a preview by clicking here.

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