Whistle Stop Opera makes a welcome return this season with a light-hearted, half-hour version of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, specially created to appeal to people who have yet to experience live opera.
Building on the success of last year's Whistle Stop Opera: Elixir of Love, Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel and Gretel takes opera out of its more traditional setting and into a wide variety of community venues, including pubs, village halls, libraries and museums, with free performances being offered in all the cities where Opera North is touring its Winter Season productions.
Written by opera singer and director John Savournin, with co-direction from Opera North's Community Engagement Manager, Madeleine Thorne, the new adaptation is sung entirely in English. It explores the characters and themes from Humperdinck's best-loved work, which was inspired by the Brothers Grimm story of two hungry children lost in the forest and unable to resist the wicked witch's gingerbread house.
John also appears in the role of the Sandman, encouraging the audience to use their imaginations to help him weave his ‘daydream’. He is joined by soprano Ellie Laugharne as Gretel and mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe as Hansel, with Sarah Estill, who is more usually to be found singing in the Chorus of Opera North, taking on the dual role of the children's mother and the witch. Accordionist Miloš Milivojević provides the musical accompaniment, based on Humperdinck's charming melodic score. In addition to the public performances, the opera will be travelling to a sheltered housing project, primary schools and various charity groups.
Whistle Stop Hansel and Gretel is being performed to coincide with Opera North’s current fairy tale season which includes Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden and Rossini’s Cinderella in which John Savournin appears as the Prince’s tutor, Alidoro. The season opened at Leeds Grand Theatre in January and is now touring to Theatre Royal, Newcastle; The Lowry, Salford Quays; Grand Opera House, Belfast; and Theatre Royal, Nottingham.
Most performances of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel and Gretel are free of charge, but advance booking is recommended:
Monday 6 March: Doncaster
7.00pm – The Leopard Pub (ticket price of £5 applies)
Tuesday 21 March: Nottingham
5.30pm – Malt Cross
Rehearsing Whistle Stop Opera: Elixir of Love. Credit: Tom Arber
Fflur Wyn and Katie Bray in Hansel and Gretel. Credit: Robert Workman