The Opera Hansel and Gretel With a Modern Twist

Hansel and Gretel are lured to the sweet-smelling kitchen of a hungry witch, who turns out to the a 1950s matron. Engelbert Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel has been reset a bit in the production being mounted by The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Veteran stage director Pat Diamond, brought in from New York to manage this Rice staging had nothing but praise about the Rice graduate students and the chamber orchestra involved. "It is wonderful to work with a group that is so accomplished and collaborative," he says of Rice's Shepherd School of Music opera students. "Rice produces amazing artists."

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Humperdinck wrote his opera derived from the classic tale of the two children sent out into the woods to collect strawberries with the help of his sister, Adelheid Wette. She composed the story line to entertain her children, and Humperdinck expanded these into the opera we know today.

Diamond said his main artistic challenge was, "finding the action in the music and narrative in the music." The well-known, "Evening Prayer" is the staple of many a beginner's piano book and is sung by the children as they lay down to sleep in the woods, the first evening they are lost. "When at night I go to sleep/ Fourteen angels watch do keep," begins the most famous song of the opera. There are seven lead characters and a "children's chorus" made up of graduate and undergraduate women from the Shepherd School,

The Wortham Opera Theatre at the Shepherd School of Music presents, "Hansel and Gretel," 7:30 p.m. March 20, 24 and 26; and 2 p.m. and March 22 at Rice University, 6100 Main, Use Entrance 18 from Rice Boulevard. For more information call 713-348-8000 or visit music.rice.edu/opera. In German with English surtitles. $10-$12.

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