Master Ionarts in front of the curtain of the Lincoln Theater (December 8, 2007)
The two spirited leads in Saturday evening's performance -- mezzo-soprano Leslie Mutchler (Hansel) and soprano Amanda Pabyan (Gretel) -- are to be commended for singing the roles to their full capacity of color and expansive sound. Both singers, both recent alumnae of the Domingo-Cafritz program, assisted by the quirky and transforming costumes of Timm Burrow, also acted commendably with childlike verve and wonder. Baritone Trevor Scheunemann was a tipsy and crackpot Father, putting his resonant voice to comic effect on the role's famous tra-la-las (his was the favorite performance of Master Ionarts).
Leslie Mutchler (Hansel) and Amanda Pabyan (Gretel), Hansel and Gretel, Washington National Opera, 2007, photo by Karin Cooper
The production (directy by David Gately, with sets by Robin Vest), while cost-effectively plain at times, was colorful and occasionally surreal. Master Ionarts was most impressed by the second act in the forest, especially the costumes of the animals who gather around the sleeping children. The beautiful gingerbread witch's house in the third act, combined with the gravity-defying wig and false hooked chin and nose of Wór's witch, were initially very scary. After briefly trying to hide behind his chair (at the first intermission, we moved up to the empty box on the left side of the orchestra level), Master Ionarts was soon so bewitched by the visual and musical appeal that he uncovered his eyes.
T. L. Ponick, 'Hansel' a tuneful first opera to see (Washington Times, December 8)
Ronni Reich, 'Hansel and Gretel' for the Holidays (Washington Post, December 10)