Set in the industrialized 1950s, Hansel and Gretel are latch-key kids to a depressed mother and overworked father. The witch runs a stainless-steel kitchen with modern gadgets and a glass-door oven. One hopes it's the self-cleaning kind.

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Episode credited cast:
Alice Coote ...
Christine Schäfer ...
Gretel - Hansel's sister
Alan Held ...
Peter - their father
Rosalind Plowright ...
Lisette Oropesa ...
the Dew Fairy
Sasha Cooke ...
Philip Langridge ...
The Witch
Vladimir Jurowski ...
Himself - Conducted by
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Metropolitan Opera Chorus ...
Chorus

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Storyline

Set in the industrialized 1950s, Hansel and Gretel are latch-key kids to a depressed mother and overworked father. The witch runs a stainless-steel kitchen with modern gadgets and a glass-door oven. One hopes it's the self-cleaning kind.

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26 March 2008 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Connections

Remake of Hansel and Gretel (1998) See more »

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Where Birmingham leads New York follows
17 November 2008 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

I settled down to watch what I thought was a new production of Hansel and Gretel from the New York Met but I very soon realised that this is an old production of Welsh National Opera's that I saw in Birmingham four years ago. In fact, to be fair to the Welsh, the production is much older than that and originally opened in Cardiff.

Well, it is a famous production but I was not exactly overwhelmed when I saw it live and some of the faults are still obvious in this film from the Met. The first scene takes place in a tiny set that looks lost on the vast Met stage. The second scene, in the forest, also takes place in a box but this time it is covered in leafy wallpaper. You may imagine that the director and designer are saving all their money for a spectacular final act in the witch's cottage but you would be wrong. This production has short arms and long pockets. Nevertheless, when the camera moves in close, you can wallow in Humperdinks sumptuous Wagner-influenced music and forget the shortcomings of the set. There is lots of fun to be had from this production and I particularly liked the dream banquet with the 14 angels replaced by 14 gravitationally challenged chefs and a fish waiter. I also enjoyed the final act in the witch's cottage which is more ghoulishly humorous than I remembered from the live production.

The star-studded cast includes Christine Schafer as Gretel, perversely having to sing in English rather than her native German although her accent does add a touch of authenticity. Hansel is Alice Coote making an effortless transition from her usual trouser roles to this short-trouser role. Unfortunately, in the forest, both children smear their faces with strawberries so, for the rest of the opera they look as though they are suffering from a severe attack of eczema. Best of all is a latex-dripping Philip Langridge as the witch whose comic timing goes from strength to strength.

The witty English translation is by David Pountney. What a pity these films from the Met persist in subtitling English language operas, presumably for the benefit of deaf opera-lovers. In the opera house you can just ignore the surtitles but that is not so easy when watching a film.


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