|Die Kinder und die Knusperhexe. Photo © Staatstheater Wiesbaden|
Like many other opera houses, the Staatstheater Wiesbaden is presenting Hänsel und Gretel during this festive season, and I took myself to yesterday's performance as a Christmas treat. Fine orchestral work, a carefully revived production, and strong vocal and dramatic performances made it a treat indeed. Heinz Peters' 1982 production, currently in its last season, took its aesthetic straight from the children's books of the turn of the twentieth century. There were a few moments which veered from sentiment into sentimentality, but on the whole, I found it quite charming, and pleasingly unfussy. To the credit of the revival director, choreography was carefully attuned to the score, and the characterizations of the principals were anything but lazy (a lesson could be given to larger houses.) Zsolt Hamar led the orchestra with a light touch, choosing relatively brisk tempi, which I liked. The orchestra gave a spirited performance; there were a few unsteady moments in the brass, but matters were overall well-coordinated and admirably detailed.
Beginning with the well-studied children's chorus, vocal performances were uniformly solid. Ute Döring was the harried mother, and displayed a strong, dark lower range. Joachim Goltz, as the Father, impressed with a strong, burnished baritone and engaged, engaging characterization. Erik Biegel threw himself into the role of the cackling Knusperhexe with lots of energy and great use of text, putting a positively evil twist in his tenor. Merit Ostermann employed her light, flexible mezzo in a characterization of Hänsel as bright and good-natured, mischievous only to pass the time (a close cousin of Cherubino in dramatic as well as vocal terms.) Sharon Kempton's Gretel was sympathetically acted and sung with both precision and lyricism. The final triumph of the children was acclaimed, as deserved, with enthusiastic applause.
Curtain call photos:
|Goltz and Döring|
|Biegel as the wicked witch|
|Kempton and Ostermann, a happy Hänsel and Gretel|