Full A-Team Review: Hansel and Gretel

“Boring?” No way. Cultural Spectacles Seldom Are.

Admission #1: I’ve seen an opera about once every 10 years of my adult life, or about four of them. Admission #2: I’m not a fan of weird musical phrasing sung in high registers. And truth be told, I love a spectacle, which is what ALO’s “Hansel & Gretel” surely is at the Long Ctr. And it is, after all, a worldwide favorite.

A pre-teen’s commented as he exited Friday night’s performance: “Boooo-ring.” Sorry. Can’t agree. The score by composer Engelbert Humperdink — no not the crooner – is enjoyable all by itself, if one could isolate it from the audience, cast and stage. And under the baton of the deeply-accomplished Mo. Richard Buckley, the musicians rendered all the emotion worthy of the Grimm brother’s enchanting fairytale.

The staging was amazing — lights, scrims, digital images, snowflakes, rocking chairs. The 1893 NYC apartment where immigrants H&G, portrayed by Alicia Berneche and Liz Cass (That’s right. Two women.) are driven to distraction by hunger, was like a shadowbox come to life. The scene, elevated just above the stage floor, was so purely lighted, it looked like a high-def TV screen. It glowed, and at the close retreated upstage. (Take a bow, John Conklin, Set Designer, and Barry Steel, Lighting Designer.) And the lost-in-Central Park set was, well, a fantastic snow globe setting.

Great mid-Orchestra seating? Check. Excellent program notes? Uh-huh! Elaborate props and costumes? Of course. Sung mostly in English? Thankfully. Stellar cast? Oh yeah, and Liz Cass who plays mother Gertrude as well as the well-heeled witch in a Manhattan confectionary palace, combined a great voice with excellent acting, much to the audience’s fright . . . er, I mean delight. You’ll love the edible edifice as much as the gingerbread ones in the lobby, as well as the hot time around the hot stove.

The chorus seemed under-used to me, however, but then I was distracted by the lively, dare I say whimsical (?) translation of the libretto: Simple couplet rhyming, but nicely updated with some laugh-out- loud lines.

I regret I can’t be as succinct as the kid who saw the same show. I’ve no ear for opera. But the eyes and the ayes have it. “H&G” is a bit like marzipan, an acquired taste. Just don’t overindulge.

Preston Kirk
A-Team Reporter
Spicewood (Austin) TX USA

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About nowplayingaustin

The Austin Creative Alliance is a nonprofit performing arts service organization working to cultivate an environment where the performing arts can grow and flourish. We serve over 130 arts organizations with marketing, ticketing, audience development services; AEA paymaster, information & referral services — plus access to affordable health, liability, and event insurance. We also provide online professional development seminars, fiscal sponsorship services for emerging arts groups, host annual unified general auditions, annual theatre industry awards, and consistently advocate for the many benefits the arts bring to our quality of life.

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