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Family Opera: Hansel and Gretel

Gingerbread HouseOn Saturday afternoon, the Washington National Opera held an open house at the historic Lincoln Theater, the venue for its upcoming family opera, Hansel and Gretel (the whole score, in the original German, is available online). The whole Ionarts clan attended this free event, although we feared that it would be as crowded as the overrun Kennedy Center Open House earlier this fall. Happily, it was not so and much fun was had by all. We were welcomed and guided kindly by the volunteers on hand, taking in the child-friendly activities including making our own gingerbread man refrigerator magnets. The high point of the visit was an acted and sung synopsis of the story, complete with props and costumes and involving kids and their parents, in the balcony. This included yours truly acting out the part of the little man in Gretel's Ein Männlein steht im Walde, purple coat, hat, sneeze, and everything.

Although Master Ionarts is an old hand at opera -- Saturday's performance of Hansel and Gretel will be his seventh opera -- this was the first time in a theater for his little sister, Miss Ionarts. Judging by her reaction and her disappointment that she is not coming along for the real thing, it is time to start taking her to more of these events. (As for this opera, the witch would probably be too scary for her and she does not usually stay up that late.) Before we left, we sat in one of the balconies to watch the crew set lights and prepare the sets. The candy cane cage, where the witch will imprison Hansel, was a big hit. The choice of venue for what the WNO is calling a new holiday tradition is significant. The theater and its dance hall in the U Street corridor have contained the sounds of Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn. Was the choice in part an attempt to reach across the racial divide of opera's traditional audience? Yes or no, it was very good to see a mix of young faces reflecting the city's population, all of them excited about opera.

There will be four performances of Hansel and Gretel next weekend: December 7 (7:30 pm), December 8 (2 and 7 pm), and December 9 (2 pm). It will be sung in English, with supertitles of the text for clarity, and the cast is composed of members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Tickets range from $10 to $50.

1 comment:

Mark Barry said...

It's obvious that you really struggled when it came to naming the little tykes, are there any pet ions?