Skilfully revived by James Bonas, Laurent Pelly’s 2008 production of Humperdinck’s opera launches Glyndebourne’s autumn tour. Visually it remains a distinctly mixed experience, in which the magic of the original fairytale is largely ditched: the angels in the dream pantomime sequence are just everyday kids, dressed in white and eating hamburgers; they return, grotesquely fattened up, for the opera’s close.
A scene from Hansel und Gretel Photo: Robbie Jack
The earlier part of the show benefits significantly from an outstanding brother-and-sister act in the two title roles. Both blessed with excellent voices, Victoria Yarovaya’s Hansel and Andriana Chuchman’s Gretel act as well as they sing; utterly convincing as children, they turn the famous Evening Prayer into something unforgettably moving.
Not far behind them are Anne Mason’s tetchy Mother and Stephen Gadd’s alcohol fuelled Father; with their help the family scenes of Act 1 go perfectly. Later on Colin Judson makes a superior Witch, though his demise - when Gretel shoves him behind a pile of cornflake packets in a supermarket - is neither spectacular nor scary enough. Overall, too much of the dark fantasy of the Brothers Grimm has been replaced by a worthy tract about the perils of consumerism and overeating.
Glyndebourne’s own orchestra, though, provides top quality playing, while the young Venezuelan conductor Ilyich Rivas makes every note of the score tell. But with lots of children attending this family friendly opera, this would have been a good opportunity for Glyndebourne to relax its overly rigid language policy and play the piece in English.