Friday, April 22, 2005

in homage to Humperdinck

I just got the 1978 Sir Georg Solti recording of Hansel and Gretel with the Vienna Philharmonic, and I have been falling in love with this music all over again. Engelbert Humperdinck was something of a one-hit wonder as an opera compose - I can't name another piece he wrote besides Hansel. However, there is a great career's worth of gorgeous harmonies, charming tunes, and brilliant characterization in just this one opera. This was the first opera I ever saw performed live, in 1996 at the Met, and I've been smitten ever since.

my new Hansel and Gretel cd Posted by Hello

Hansel is a children's opera, which makes it all the more remarkable how entertaining and rich a dramatic experience it is for any age. The musical styles range from simple child-like tunes to dense Romantic counterpoint. The most angst-ridden harmonies are used to portray a character being really hungry, though, or missing her mom, rather than any sort of love-death theme. Anyone who has been around little kids much can confirm that they can get just as emotional as a Wagnerian tenor who just fell passionately in love with his sister. It is refreshing to hear such music used for run-of-the mill domestic disputes, rather than the twilight of the gods.

Which is not to say that the opera doesn't get pretty dark at times, touching on child abuse as well as child cannibalism. Those old fairy tales could get pretty grisly, I guess. I would definitely bring a 9 or 10-year old, though - maybe my newborn nephew will even be ready to go see it soon. The music is what brings it to life, and makes me recommend it to anyone curious about opera.

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