~ Author: Oberon
Saturday January 6th, 2018 matinee - The Met's dark, un-magical production of Humperdinck's HANSEL & GRETEL has become increasingly dreary over time. And it's one of those stagings where, at least in the pre-intermission scenes, only audience members seated in the center of the house can see everything that's going on.
This season's revival was well-sung, and well-played by the Wagner-sized orchestra under the baton of Donald Runnicles. Performing the opera in English - as a draw for parents to bring their young children - backfires because, 99% of the time, the words are incomprehensible. But flipping on the MetTitles simply makes you want to flip them back off. They might just as well have done the opera in German.
The characterizations of the 'adult' roles in this production are supposedly drawn on infamous British serial killers, yet Peter and Gertrude show no signs of torturing their children, and the Witch is simply a boisterous, over-the-top eccentric; her cannibalistic tendencies are treated comedically.
The production is all about food - or lack thereof - and a lot of specially-made foodstuffs are wasted in the kitchen scene. Although Peter's family are supposedly near starvation, three out of four of them in the current cast looked very well-nourished.
With a voice like a ray of shimmering light, Lisette Oropesa's Gretel gave us the kind of captivating singing we have come to expect from her. With a knack for riveting our attention to her vocalism, fairly rare among singers these days, Lisette entrancingly mixes dynamic effects and pastel shadings into her reading of the part: in any given passage, a glimmering pianissimo might emerge to charm the ear. Her trill enchants, her highest notes gleam, her phrasing is exquisite. Ever an operatic actress of delight and detail, Lisette's animated presence - and her telling moments of stillness - brought Gretel to life.
Tara Erraught's Hansel was a perfect match-up to his soprano-sibling both vocally and in characterization. Lively, petulant, irksome, and insecure by turns, Ms. Erraught's Hansel had the boyish stance and gestures down to a T. The Irish mezzo-soprano was chided in the press for her 2014 portrayal of Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER at Glyndebourne for being too pudgy. Turning the tables on her critics, Ms. Erraught has gone on to many successes in 'pants parts' whilst also faring very well in such 'female' roles as Rosina and Angelina (CENERENOLA); she's also a recitalist of note. Today as Hansel, she was well-nigh perfect, and her blend with Ms. Oropesa's voice in the 'Evening Prayer' was very pretty indeed.
As the mother, Gertrude, powerhouse Verdi mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick sent her heroic voice out into the hall effortlessly. If her vowel-ladened diction went for nought, she was really no worse in this regard than most of her colleagues. There have been many roles that, over the years, I'd hoped Ms. Zajick would undertake (most especially, the Nurse in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN - which she could still tackle) and hearing her in 'new' music is always a good thing.
Quinn Kelsey strikes me as one of the best baritones around today; he sang superbly as Peter, played the good-hearted tippler ideally, and boasted the best diction percentage of the cast. I can't wait for his Count di Luna!
Gerhard Siegel, that excellent Mime and Herod, took on the role of the Witch and sang with penetrating tone. He threw himself into the physical demands of the production, clambering up onto the enormous kitchen table, wafting clouds of flour and cocoa into the air, and having his face shoved into a whipped-cream cake. It was a broad, bumptious portrayal well-suited to the big house.
Two lovely artists from the Met's Linderman Young Artists Development appeared as the Sandman and Dew Fairy. These roles have often been stepping stones to bigger things: in my first-ever HANSEL, Karan Armstrong and Lilian Sukis made their marks in these two 'aria-roles', and went on to international careers. In the current production's Met premiere (2007), then-Young Artists Sasha Cooke and Lisette Oropesa took some of their early steps towards becoming key players on today's classical music scene.
This afternoon, Rihab Chaieb's Sandman and Hyesang Park's Dew Fairy continued the tradition: Ms Chaieb's attractive face and form were obscured by her costuming, but her warm, expressive singing was a real pleasure, whilst Ms Park's tonal clarity (and her blooming high register) augured well for future possibilities.
The Met Orchestra sounded plushy and Wagnerian, with some very nice solo moments shining forth. The Met's children's chorus excelled at the end, and most of their words came across. Maestro Runnicles had everything well in hand; I only wish he'd been brought in for some Wagner or Strauss.
Metropolitan Opera House
Saturday January 6th, 2018 matinee
HÄNSEL UND GRETEL
Dew Fairy...............Hyesang Park
Photo: Met Opera