Most people know who Hansel and Gretel are. Their infamous run-in with the witch in a house of sweets after failing to find their bread crumb trail path home is memorable.
What most people don’t know is that Hansel and Gretel could sing. Well, at least in Engelbert Humperdink’s opera they do.
The CSUN Little Theatre will open “Hansel ‘ Gretel,” the opera by Humperdink, March 31.
Eli Villanueva, stage director of the opera and part-time CSUN faculty member, said that although the story is a fairy tale, the audience should not expect candy canes, bright colors, and other childlike things.
Humperdink’s opera is composed in such a way that “funny things tend to happen,” said Villanueva, but he also said that their original intention was to present the story the way the Grimm brothers, the authors of the fairy tale, had written it, which was darker than most people realize.
“I would love it if a child comes out really sacred,” Villanueva said with a laugh.
According to J. Phillips, the stage manager for “Hansel ‘ Gretel,” it has been fun to see the opera develop.
“Children will get it, but there’s something there for the adults, too. Visually it’s stunning,” said Phillips.
Each role is double-casted, with Gretel being performed by Yvonne Fiedler and Electra Barakos; Hansel by Audrey Coles and Trisha Harris; and the witch by Jeremy Eichberg and Robert Norman.
Trisha Harris, senior voice performance major, said this is her first time playing a “pants-role,” or male character, and the experience has helped her hone her skills.
“I get to step outside my normal realm of being a girl ? It’s been fun to create that character,” Harris said.
Musical Director David Aks, who is also a CSUN professor, said the part of Hansel was “written for a mezzo-soprano voice ? It was written for a woman.”
The part of the witch also has somewhat of an unexpected twist being performed by men.
Senior vocal performance major Jeremy Eichberg said, “Performing a character role such as the witch gives me an opportunity to focus on the dramatic side of opera and test my ability to step outside of the box.”
Casting for the opera took place in December 2005, and rehearsals started at the beginning of Spring 2006.
“This cast has got very, very responsible, professional students who are very well-prepared,” Aks said.
The opera will feature an 11-piece chamber ensemble, including such instruments as the violin, the cello, and the flute.
Originally performed in German, the performance at CSUN will be in English as translated by Carol Kelly.
Aks said that although they usually perform their operas in the original language, they wanted to make this opera more understandable for children.
“It’s a well-known fairy tale and it’s a wonderful way to introduce children to opera,” Aks said.
The opera is approximately an hour and 45 minutes long, which Villanueva says makes it relatively short in comparison to most operas.
The music and theater departments collaborated on “Hansel ‘ Gretel,” and many other projects, said Bill Taylor, CSUN theater manager. He said the theater department helps the music department with their operas, and the music department helps the theater department with their musicals.
“It makes for a nice exchange,” said Taylor.
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