War and Peace
Seattle Opera's 2008-2009 Season

Hansel and Gretel Live in HD Met Simulcast

Hansel and Gretel by Rackham* Notes *
The Met's simulcast of Hansel and Gretel aired today. The production, by Richard Jones, is new to the Met and opened on Christmas Eve. Created for
Welsh National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, the staging is rather dark. Act I is nearly all grey, Act II takes place in an oppressive green room meant to be the woods, and Act III has much grey again, though the sweets do add some color. Though many of the costumes look like Tracht, for the most part this is not a storybook come to life, but has a more contemporary and surrealistic aesthetic. The dream sequence in Act II is especially amusing, featuring many chefs and an attendant with a fish head. There are a few weaknesses in the staging, it was a bit odd when Hansel and Gretel smear berries on themselves in Act II, considering that they are supposedly starving. Parts of Act III made little sense, as there is no house, gingerbread or otherwise, representing the Witch's abode. When Hansel and Gretel sing about the tempting house, and they eat from a large cake on top of an enormous tongue sticking out of a mouth painted on a scrim.

Conductor Vladimir Jurowski kept things going at a good pace, though the orchestra and singers (Rosalind Plowright and Alan Held as Gertrude and Peter, the parents) were slightly off near the end of Act I. Christine Schäfer had some shrill notes in the beginning as Gretel, but sounded fine once warmed up. I had her pegged as a German from the start, her open-mid front unrounded vowel in "black" and "cap" gave her away. This was, obviously, quite minor, she was perfectly understandable. Alice Coote sounded and looked convincing as Hansel. Philip Landridge was wonderful as the Witch. I was most surprised by Sasha Cooke as the Sandman, her voice was clear and tender.

* Tattling *
Theater 12 at the AMC Bay Street 16 was mostly full, though not sold-out. The image was not clear from the third row, the edges of light objects were not smooth and seemed to move. The effect was strangely watery. The sound was good from this location, though I heard other patrons who had been in the back heard echoes. The image did go fuzzy at one point in Act III, and the sound also was disturbed once after that, both incidences occurred when the Witch was singing.

Renée Fleming hosted the simulcast, she made us aware that there would be some shots from backstage during the overture, she spoke to the lead singers at intermission, and so forth. The simulcast had many close-ups, and one could see the performance in a way one could never experience it at the opera house itself. One could appreciate many details that could not be seen from afar. Most of the time, this was great, but I would have rather not seen Rosalind Plowright spit out her food quite so vividly in Act I. One was even able to see Alice Coote's fillings in Act III.