For the first time Irish National Opera, Theatre Lovett and the Abbey Theatre are collaborating together, on Hansel and Gretel, Humperdinck’s compelling masterpiece reimagined in a mysterious modern setting.
One of the greatest operas about children, Hansel and Gretel is sweet and beguiling, combining childlike simplicity with heart-aching beauty. Don’t be fooled. This is a story of greed, mouth-wateringly sugar-coated. Hansel and Gretel opens this Saturday 8 February in the Abbey Theatre running until Saturday 15 February before touring nationwide.
The opera originated as a little play written by the composer’s sister Frau Adelheid Wette for her family. The original performers were her daughters. Their uncle, Professor Humperdinck, was so taken by it that, with his sister’s help, he added to the four songs he originally wrote for it, and eventually turned it into a full-blown opera.
Theatre Lovett’s Muireann Ahern and Louis Lovett are co-directing the opera, which marks their operatic debut. Louis describes their approach to staging the piece, how they “lay out a trail of breadcrumbs, creating moments or stepping stones to lead the audience through the opera”.
Muireann adds “We have now emerged from the other side of the planning, pre-production and rehearsal process. If we are no longer complete opera newbies, it is only because of the wonderful team that Irish National Opera, assembled around us, plus the outstanding support of the Abbey staff. Without doubt top of that list is our conductor Richard Peirson. Richard’s talent, his operatic experience, his generosity of spirit, his stamina, his willingness to play and his all-round goodness made this a very happy experience. “
Muireann goes on to praise the rest of the team “Then of course there are our superb singers. We watched and listened to them every day and we are richer for it. Our musicians who joined in on our play. Our talented design team. Our two young actors Amelie Metcalfe and Ronan Millar and, of course, Mr Raymond Keane, our hotel porter who helped glue this entire production together. Hats off to all.”
INO Artistic Director Fergus Sheil says, “I really love the work of Theatre Lovett. They have a cheekiness and irreverence that guarantees fun, but they also have a serious understanding of how to make their work really connect with audiences. And I have always had a soft spot for Humperdinck’s best-known opera, which was praised by some of the great figures of his time, including Richard Strauss, who conducted the first performance, and Gustav Mahler, who conducted it the following year. Hansel and Gretel seemed to me like a perfect vehicle for Muireann and Louis to begin their first operatic exploration.”
Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, Directors of the Abbey Theatre add “Collaboration is a key pillar of our programming – joining forces with talented artists and companies on projects that, we feel, say something about the world we live in and hold a mirror up to Irish society. We are proud to partner with Theatre Lovett and Irish National Opera to bring a fresh, new production of this beloved fairytale and fantastic opera to audiences both here at the Abbey in Dublin and across the country.”
The all-Irish cast also includes Miriam Murphy as Mother, Ben McAteer as Father, Cork soprano Emma Nash sings the Dew Fairy and Sandman and Carrickfergus mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin as the Witch. Raymond Keane plays The Night Watchman with Amelia Metcalfe and Ronan Millar as the Lost Children.
The Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Saturday 8 – Saturday 15 February, 2020
National Tour: Tuesday 18 February and Saturday 7 March 2020
Navan, Kilkenny, Wexford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Longford, and Letterkenny.
Irish National Opera, Theatre Lovett and the Abbey Theatre are funded by The Art Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
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