A Fairy Opera in Three Acts by Adelheid Wette
Translated and adapted into English by Constance Bache
Music composed by Engelbert Humperdinck
Chorus of Gingerbread Children: Lottie Wakelin's Lady Singers
National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
Leader, Albert Voorsanger
Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite
Scene I. At Home: In a poor room the boy Hansel (Mezzo-Soprano) and the girl Gretel (Soprano) are seen. They complain of hunger.
O Gret, it would be such a treat,
If we had something nice to eat;
Eggs and butter and suet paste,
I've almost forgotten how they taste,' so sings Hansel, and Gretel tries to cheer him by showing him a jug of milk, out of which their mother, when she returns, will make a blancmange. Hansel cannot wait. He begins to taste it.
Gretel then tries to keep her troublesome young brother out of mischief by giving him a dancing lesson, and the children sing as they dance.
The fun gets noisier, and then, when it is at its height, in comes Mother (Contralto), whereupon sudden quiet. She scolds the children for neglecting their work, and, in her anger, accidentally overturns the jug of milk which was to have provided the family supper.
Weary and distracted, she drives the children out to gather wild strawberries, and, with a prayer for help, drops asleep, exhausted.
A gay song is heard, and there enters the Father (Baritone). The Mother awakes and expresses her discouragement; the Father goes on merrily singing, and at last shows the cause of his happiness. He has sold the brooms he had made, and bought ham and butter and flour and sausages and vegetables and tea - such provision as the cottage has not seen for many a long day.
Then the Father asks where the children are, and on learning that they have (so near nightfall) gone into the forest, he is alarmed. He talks, shuddering, of magic, and sings an eerie song of a gobbling ogress,' who lures children and bakes them in her oven.'
With a cry, the Mother wrought up by this narrative, rushes out of the door to save her children, and the Father follows.
The Forest - Sunset: The children are seen, Gretel making a garland of wild roses, Hansel looking for strawberries. Gretel sings a quiet song, 'There stands a little man in the wood alone.' Hansel takes up the garland, and crowns her as Queen of the Wood. He, courtier-like, presents her with his basket of strawberries: they both begin to eat. The Cuckoo is heard, and the children sing an old song about him.
A friendly quarrel arises. Hansel snatches the basket and finishes off the strawberries. Gretel, horror-struck, reproaches him. It begins to grow dark.
Soon the light has quite gone. The children are frightened. They see faces grinning from every tree. Hansel calls, and echo answers. The children crouch together.
The Sandman quietly creeps to the children, singing his song. He strews sand in their eyes. Half asleep, they sing their evening prayer.
Dawn: The Dewman (Soprano) comes, singing, 'I'm up with early dawning!' The children awake. As the mist finally clears, they find themselves in the haunts of the Witch (Mezzo-Soprano) who in these scenes shuts Hansel in her cage (to fatten him for eating) and transfixes Gretel, but is eventually pushed into her own oven by the children. The oven flares up, then crashes to the ground. Spells are broken and a lot of children whom the witch has entranced come to life again. There is a general dance and song of all the children.
Translated and adapted into English by:
Music composed by:
Peter, a broom-maker:
Gertrude, his wife:
Hansel (their children):
Gretel (their children):
The Witch who eats children:
Dewman, the Dawn Fairy: