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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Opera Review: Can it Core a Apple?

The Met's new Hansel and Gretel
Ooh! Cake! The hell-mouth from Hansel and Gretel.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Hansel and Gretel (which is actually imported from the Welsh National Opera) tosses out the traditional gingerbread staging in favor of an edgy surreal fairy-tale world that owes debts to Salvador Dali and Saw.

The controversial staging, however, is overwhelmed by the quality of this first-rate cast and the Met's always-reliable orchestra. Everything in Richard Jones' staging is fixated on food, from the opening scene where the children are starving in a bare Honeymooners kitchen to the "dream ballet" where the angels descend to earth in the form of portly chefs, each bearing a delicacy on a silver charger. (As far as we could tell from our Family Circle perspective, none of them were leftover props from Salome.)

Visually, this ain't subtle. The Witch's Ride is represented as a huge, lipless, screaming mouth--a nightmare image that recalls Edvard Munch's paintings as well as the Rolling Stones' Andy Warhol logo. The forest is a giant, menacing dining room tricked out in green leafy wallpaper with an antler-chandelier straight out of Twin Peaks. And the dream ballet is led, inexplicably by a half-man-half-sardine wearing a very nice tuxedo.

The conducting and vocal performances were anchored by Alan Titus' sturdy Father and Philip Langridge's bring-down-the-house turn as the Witch. This great British tenor looks and acts like he's stepped out of a John Waters film.

However, one wonders why the Met decided to cast Christine Schäfer, a talented German singer for a production staged in English? She sings well opposite the boorish, rambunctious Hansel of Alice Coote, but sounds uncomfortable in another language. Vladimir Jurowski led a strong, Wagnerian performance from the Met pit. The enthusiasm of the brass section proved an even greater menace to the singers than the Witch.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.