By Marissa Mooney|Staff Writer|
The Department of Music and voice students of the opera program presented “Hänsel und Gretel” on May 4 and May 6 in the Performing Arts Recital Hall.
Dr. Stacey Fraser, Director of the CSUSB Opera Theatre, presented Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera with a modern take on its original story line.
“Opera has a tradition of being a high brow art form and I am trying to advocate that opera can indeed be accessible to the modern audience,” said Fraser.
In this modern take, the opera is filled with pop culture references, as well as commentary on poverty, greed and commercialism that applies to our world, according to the Department of Music.
“It is all about telling the story within a setting that relates to those who are watching the production,” said Fraser.
While talking to the students about going in a different direction in choosing Humperdinck’s version of “Hänsel und Gretel,” one of her students said, “Dr. Fraser, we want something that we can really sink our teeth into, we are ready.”
The new director of choral activities, Mr. Kosta Popovic, conducted the singers and the opera orchestra. The opera was presented in its original German, while subtitles were present on stage for the audience to follow along.
Danielle Perrault played Hänsel, with Natalie O’Donnell as Gretel and Aaron Molina as the witch. The opera’s twist on the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale sparked an element of fantasy almost in comparison to the style of Tim Burton.
Costume Designer Fabiola Munoz developed the costumes as a dark, but vibrant embrace filled with bright wigs and carefully put together dresses and blazers. Gretel’s costume was a tailored dress made of pieces of cloth and fishnet tights, while Hänsel‘s costume had a more punk-rock style complete with Converse shoes, jeans, a stud belt and a torn top.
The normal tale of the brother-sister duo facing the evil witch in her gingerbread house was turned into a coffee shop filled with cake pops, frappuccinos and lattes.
Hänsel and Gretel are sent out in search of dinner after their mother grows angry from lack of food in the household. The siblings become lost and frightened while the Sandman, played by Denise Tillman, puts the children to rest.
The next day the dew fairy, also played by Tillman, wakes the children and they discover the coffee shop. It is here where the witch casts a spell on Hänsel to fatten him up to turn him into coffee.
Many of the elements of the original tale have been updated to suit modern audiences. Instead of the oven, the witch tries to lure the children into a coffee roaster.
The opera was a beautiful harmony between the actors and orchestra. The preludes to each act included incredible displays of choreographed dance, acting and singing.
“Hänsel und Gretel” is drastically dark and its different delivery proved that tweaking classical fairy tales to fit the styles of modern times can be a success.