Arts Society & Culture

UGA Opera Theatre to present Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Opera Theatre will present “Hansel and Gretel” in a three-night engagement Nov. 5-7 at 7:30 p.m. in Hodgson Concert Hall.

The performance, part of both the UGA Spotlight on the Arts Festival and the Hugh Hodgson School of Music’s 2nd Thursday Scholarship Concert Series, also features the Georgia Children’s Chorus, dance department and UGA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by professor Mark Cedel.

The quasi-children’s opera is the best-known work of 19th century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Based upon the well-known Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel” tells the story of a brother and sister sent by their mother to gather food in the Ilsenstein, a dark and foreboding forest noted for harboring all manner of ghoulish entities. The duo loses their way and meets a grotesque witch, and soon the children find themselves captive in her gingerbread house, desperate to escape.

“Ultimately, the story is how the children’s savvy allows them to triumph,” said Frederick Burchinal, director of the Opera Theatre and the Wyatt and Margaret Anderson Professor in the Arts at UGA. “Their wits save them from their trials, both at home and in the forest.”

UGA’s production of the opera will be sung in English, using a libretto unique to the performance that draws upon several translations. Presented as a fully-staged concert production, the opera features Marisan Corsino as Hansel, Elisabeth Slaten as Gretel, Chalis Montgomery in the dual role of the mother and witch, Isaiah Feken as the father and Alexis Minogue as the Sandman and Dew Fairy, two spirits encountered by the children in the forest.

“Beyond beautiful singing, musical elements, melodies and an understanding of the text, I find the most important element in any opera to be the relationships between characters,” Burchinal said. “You can dress things up in all manner of fantastic settings, but the characters’ interaction is at the heart of whether or not we believe what is happening in the opera. The goal is to always find a way to create reality onstage.”

The opera includes participation from the UGA Ballet Ensemble, choreographed by dance department head Lisa Fusillo; scenic art from former Metropolitan Opera veteran Jill Biskin; costumes by Christin Schifano and Teresa Armacost; and set design and construction by Donnie Simonds. Opera coach Kathryn Wright, assistant coach Nicolò Sbuelz and Georgia Children’s Chorus director Carol Reeves also assisted in preparation for the production.

Tickets for the three performances are $18 for the general public and $5 for students and are available through the UGA Performing Arts Center box office at 706-542-4400 or www.uga.edu/pac.

Established in 1980, the 2nd Thursday Scholarship Series offers showcase performances by UGA students and faculty the second Thursday of each month throughout the academic year. Proceeds from individual ticket sales and season subscriptions help fund year-long academic scholarships and assistantships for students and present donors the opportunity to sponsor individual students of the music school at several levels of giving.

The next concert in the series will be the UGA Holiday Concerts Dec. 4-5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Classic Center Theatre. For more information on the 2nd Thursday Series or the Hodgson School of Music, see music.uga.edu.

The Spotlight on the Arts festival is presented by the UGA Arts Council, of which the Hugh Hodgson School of Music is a participating unit. More than 60 events are scheduled during the nine-day festival in November. For more information, see arts.uga.edu.