"Hänsel und Gretel" at DC's Millennium Stage
Enlarge image The "Knusperhexe" confronts Hänsel and Gretel. (© Germany.info) Like the Nutcracker in the United States, the opera of Hänsel und Gretel is a classic of the Christmas season in Germany, a holiday tradition beloved by children and the young-at-heart alike.
On Monday, December 19, those in greater Washington had the chance to experience this tradition as the Cologne-based group "theater die baustelle" brought Hänsel und Gretel to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage for a 6:00 pm performance.
For the five cast members from the small theater die baustelle, it was an exciting opportunity to perform in the grand foyer of the Kennedy Center, where the daily events of the Millennium Stage are held. It was the theater's first time on stage in the US. It also provided a special chance to perform in English, though the singing was in German. Judging by the faces of the audience members in their seats, and those of the many younger ones sprawled out on the floor, it was truly an enchanting evening of magic and wonder.
Enlarge image The reunited, happy family blows fairy dust into the audience at the conclusion of the opera. (© Germany.info) The opera of Hänsel und Gretel arose out of composer Engelbert Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid Wette’s request that he create music to accompany the texts she was writing, based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, as a Christmas present for her children. The opera of Hänsel und Gretel was an instant success from its premier on December 23, 1893 in Weimar, with Richard Strauss conducting. It quickly became Humperdinck’s signature composition, as well as one of the most popular of all children’s operas.
American children may well be familiar with the tale of the poor brother and sister who, upon being sent into the forest to gather berries, get lost in the dark, are enticed to the gingerbread house of an evil witch (in German, the witch is called the “Knusperhexe” or “nibbling witch”), and later escape from the nasty hag’s grasp through Gretel’s cunning maneuvering. They are less likely to know the charming folk songs which feature in Humperdinck’s masterpiece.
As the final performance of the Do Deutsch-German Weeks campaign, Hänsel und Gretel offered an opportunity for cultural exchange on a national stage.
(© Theater die Baustelle)
Enlarge image (© Germany.info) This event is part of the "do Deutsch" series of events on German culture and language organized by the German missions and the Goethe-Institut locations in the US.