When I heard that DCT’s Hansel and Gretel was using the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, I immediately wondered how the Las Vegas pop singer’s music lent itself to the aesthetic of a classic fairy tale. I quickly learned something I didn’t know. Turns out the stage name of the 70’s icon came from the composer who crafted the opera Hänsel und Gretel in 1890. That made a lot more sense.
I also learned that Humperdinck first crafted some of the music for a small puppet show for the children in his family. Perfect!
DCT’s B. Wolf created her own play with music, which is the Hansel and Gretel your kids will see, so she told me more about her process of developing this show and incorporating Humperdinck’s rich assets.
Humperdinck’s opera, Hänsel und Gretel, is his most famous work. He wrote other operas, but I don’t believe they are performed today. His Hänsel und Gretel is performed often. It is full of gorgeous melodies, great material for songs and underscoring.
My process in using this material is difficult to describe. I first had to decide what would be better conveyed in song, as opposed to what would be conveyed in dialogue. Two of the songs, The Dream and The Sandman, are not taken from Humperdinck; they are original melodies of mine. The songs sung by the Witch have my lyrics set to Humperdinck melodies, sometimes switched into minor keys. The prayer song which the children sing is Humperdinck’s melody, my lyrics.
The scene where Berta, the goose, flies all about the cottage with the children chasing her is underscored with Humperdinck’s melodies, in a humorous arrangement. Using these same melodies, I created foreboding underscoring to convey the fearful forest at night. In underscoring the Witch’s scenes, I alternated between foreboding and humorous (don’t want to scare them too much!)
I think these melodies complement the story perfectly, and that is one reason the opera is still so popular today.
Of course I hope the children (and adults!) will respond by being transported into the long ago world of this fairy tale, and that the music will be the mystical means of transporting them there (along with the great sets, gorgeous lighting, and masterful artistry of the puppeteers!)
DCT is so fortunate to have Kathy Burks, B. Wolf and their team who continue to reinvent some of the most beloved stories for our children. Hansel and Gretel runs March 4 – April 3 at DCT, and is definitely something you’ll want your family to sink their teeth into!
For ticket information, go to dct.org
By Sherry Ward
See you at the theater!