Apr 212010
Authors: Savannah King

The general picture that comes to mind when one thinks of an opera is very large people in horned hats singing for hours in some unrecognizable language about death or unrequited love.
Aside from the funny hats, it probably sounds less than enjoyable.

Good thing CSU’s newest opera production, “Hansel and Gretel,” is nothing like that.

“It’s going to be nice for people who’ve never seen opera before,” said assistant director and sophomore music education major Cassie Murray.

This free production is directed by Kelly Taylor and performed both today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the University Center for the Arts Organ Recital Hall, the production cannot be described as anything short of adorable –– and it’s performed in English.

The opera follows the storyline of the traditional Grimms brothers’ fairytale about a brother and sister who get lost in the woods and stumble upon the candy house of a child-eating witch. Hansel and Gretel eventually escape from the evil witch by pushing her into the very oven she planned to cook them in and make their way back to their mother and father in a time-honored happy ending.

Christie Connolley, a graduate vocal performance student who plays the witch, said the show definitely “rides the line” between dark and humorous, while it still retains the old-fashioned charm of the beloved fairy tale.

Alexandra Diessner, a senior vocal theater major who plays Gretel, calls it a “classic” that “doesn’t get old.”

The opera itself is called a märchenoper, or fairy tale opera, and was written by Engelbert Humperdinck. The original opera was first performed in 1893, and, Diessner said, is still a “very popular” show, which was originally sung in German.

It’s certainly a staple of opera, and the storyline is one that has embedded itself in American culture over the years.

The original production is also nearly three hours long, but CSU’s version has been cut down to one.

Although many cuts have been made, Diessner said the basic plot of the story everyone knows and loves has been preserved, along with the most essential songs that both advance the plot and for which the opera is famous.

“The Children’s Prayer,” a libretto sang by both Hansel and Gretel, is the most well known of these and is one of the most well known opera songs of all time. Connolley said it is “the best part of the show.”

Singing alongside the cast of eight CSU students is artist-in-residence Chuck Taylor, a baritone and veteran of the Metropolitan Opera cast in the role of the father. His deep, overpowering voice lends star power to the show.

“It’s important for us to see the passion they put into their work,” said Murray of the professionals who work with the students in their opera production.

CSU’s opera program only puts on two main stage operas per year, the operas themselves counting as a class for the students cast in them.

Hansel and Gretel is an operetta and is more of what Connolley calls a “workshop” opera for students –– one with a much smaller cast and much less time.

The cast, which is dominantly female and composed exclusively of sopranos, with the exception of Charles Taylor, has only had between what Diessner estimates to be between six and eight rehearsals before their actual performances.

“That’s how it is in the real world,” said Diessner with a shrug when asked how she thought the rehearsals would affect the performance.

Staff writer Savannah King can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:14 pm

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