Hänsel und Gretel
Alexandra Steiner (Soprano), Ricarda Merbeth (Soprano), Albert Dohmen (Baritone), Alexandra Hutton (Soprano), Annika Gerhards Alto (Soprano), Katrin Wundsam (Mezzo-Soprano), Christian Elsner (Tenor)
Kinderchor der Staatsoper Unter den Linden
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Is it possible to administer at too early an age the intoxicating and gloriously sweet poison of opera, especially in an era of constant muzak? The clear answer is “No!”. In a splendidly moving new recording of Engelbert Humperdinck’s one-hit wonder Hansel and Gretel, Maestro Marek Janowski now introduces the perfect “gateway drug” to opera.
The fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel is a perfect choice as the first joint trip to the opera for parents and children to enjoy. The story of the two children who lose their way in the forest and are ensnared by the evil witch is well-known. The plot reflects the age-old conflict between good and evil, and has a happy ending. Add to this Humperdinck’s magical music: poetically childlike and powerfully dramatic at the same time. In the score, Humperdinck’s close connection to Richard Wagner is always discernible. The composition oscillates between childlike simplicity and adult monumentality.
To this day, Hansel and Gretel remains one of the most popular pieces in the German opera repertoire. One of the main reasons for this is certainly the seriousness with which Humperdinck approached the simple story. All emotions are truly felt: and this is obvious not only to a child, but also to any adult who has retained a childlike view of the world.
Who better than Marek Janowski here as conductor? Not only does he clearly feel completely at home in this late-Romantic German repertoire, he has also already given benchmark-setting interpretations of these works in both the major concert halls and the most important opera-houses. At the head of “his” Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin – which he previously led for 14 years, raising it to an outstanding level of playing – he takes the listeners into the forest-bird sound-world of this fairy-tale opera, at all times accompanied by a well-coordinated ensemble of singers.
Manuel Brug wrote the following for Klassiker Welt-Blog: “Coming from the Wagner camp are Albert Dohmen (Peter) and Ricarda Merbeth (Gertrud) as the parents, who pulled out all vocal stops in a highly dramatic and parodic manner. Tenor Christian Elsner was terrific as the wicked witch. The lyrical ladies’ quartet (Katrin Wundsam as Hansel, Alexandra Steiner as Gretel, Annika Gerhards and Alexandra Hutton as the Sandman and, respectively, the Dew Fairy) sang in sweetly beautiful voice, in accordance with their roles.”