An introduction to Hansel and Gretel

Here’s everything you need to know about ENO and Regent Park Open Air Theatre’s co-production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

It’s a nineteenth century opera

First performed December 1893, Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel) retells the well known fairy-tale.

When Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost in the forest, they stumble upon a house made of gingerbread. Unable to resist temptation, the siblings begin eating the house only to be captured by the witch who lives there. The witch puts Gretel to work in the kitchen, while fattening Hansel up to eat. Gretel manages to trick the witch and pushes her into her own oven, thus turning her into a cake, and releasing all the gingerbread children the witch had baked before.

The opera is based on the famous fairy-tale by the Brothers Grimm

The opera was originally commissioned by Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette, to be a children’s play. When working on it, however, the composer soon realised Hansel and Gretel’s operatic potential.

In making the original Brothers Grimm tale more suitable for children and families, Humperdinck and Wette had to adapt a crucial part of the story in particular. Rather than leaving the children to die in the forest, Hansel and Gretel’s mother sends them out for strawberries. Wette also added some more fairy-tale characters such as the Sandman and the Dew Fairy, as well as angels who guard the children when they are sleeping.

Humperdinck began his career as Wagner’s assistant

The famous composer invited Humperdinck to Bayreuth to work as an assistant in the early 1880s. He even helped Wagner on Parsifal, composing music for a scene change during the first performance.

Less than 10 years later, Humperdinck began composing the opera that would make him a household name in Germany almost overnight.

Open Air Theatre’s Artistic Director Timothy Sheader will direct this production

Our second collaboration with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, following Britten‘s The Turn of the Screw, is directed by Timothy Sheader.