Hansel and Gretel
RSNO and Scottish Opera in new translation of opera
Irish soprano Ailish Tynan is proving a hit with Scottish audiences. After joining the RSNO for a highly successful Viennese New Year, she’s now back to Glasgow and Edinburgh to work with Scottish Opera, taking the role of Gretel in their brand new production of the only opera that German 19th century composer Engelbert Humperdinck is known for these days, Hansel and Gretel. Faithful to Humperdinck’s original conception of the piece, director Bill Bankes-Jones has made a new translation – the first in the UK for 25 years — which takes the opera back to its roots.
‘Sometimes directors have mad ideas,’ says Tynan, who sang the role with the Royal Opera House last year, ‘and they do things like making the gingerbread house a 1920s tenement. But sometimes people want to go to opera and see the original idea. What Bill has done is very traditional and there’s no mucking about with the music at all.’ More than that, Bankes-Jones is also happy to take on board ideas Tynan herself has for the role, putting the rich characterisation of Humperdinck’s lush, folk-inspired score to the fore.
With former Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist Kai Rüütel singing Hansel, the two main characters are enticed by the Witch to everything a gingerbread house should be, generous in size and with lots of lovely things to eat. ‘It’s a really magical opera,’ says Tynan, ‘and the director and conductor – Emmanuel Joël-Hornak – are doing everything they can to conserve the magic. You just step into another world, a fairy-tale world.’
But this is a Grimm fairytale and darkness if never far away. Leah-Marian Jones as the Witch proves deliciously wicked as the child abductor. ‘There is a real sense of fear,’ says Tynan, ‘and the Witch getting shoved into the oven at the end is pretty horrendous, even for a baddie.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Sat 4 Feb, Wed 8 Feb, Fri 10 Feb, Sun 12 Feb; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 14 Feb, Thu 16 Feb, Sat 18 Feb