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Cat. No. CHAN 3143(2) Price: £18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3143 - Humperdinck: Hansel & Gretel
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Available From: 01 June 2007
An all-star cast performs Humperdinck’s most famous opera, Hansel and Gretel, in English. It is sometimes asked whether Hansel and Gretel is really an opera for children or an opera for adults. The answer, of course, is that it is for both. Children will enjoy its straightforward songs and singing games, its rampaging comic-grotesque witch with her monstrous eating habits, and its supernatural apparitions. But then the child in us all probably enjoys this!

It is a bitter-sweet fairytale of threatened innocence and vanquished evil, written with a delicious mixture of folk melodies and Wagnerian techniques. In addition, adults will probably relish Humperdinck’s rich orchestration and subtle harmony, his consistently strong melodic invention and his masterly counterpoint, and his amazing variety of mood and texture. It is an opera for everybody.

The recording brings together three wonderful singers who first performed this opera together at the 2004 BBC Proms to high acclaim. Jennifer Larmore reprises her role, in English, of Hansel (a role she has previously recorded in the German language) with Rebecca Evan as Gretel and Jane Henschel as the Witch. They are conducted this time by Sir Charles Mackerras who brings his own remarkable magic touch to the proceedings.

Truly a gingerbread confection of a recording, involving some of opera’s brightest stars, and demonstrating why this opera is a permanent presence in the operatic repertoire.
Reviews

The Grimm Brothers would have loved it.
The New York Times on Jennifer Larmore in the Met’s production of Hansel and Gretel

Drawing on her long CV of menacing roles, Henschel’s witch was the complete package… only the hardened purists could have resisted her charms.
The Times

Reviews of the production
…It was Rebecca Evans’s Gretel, who took the honours. Spinning out radiant lines of delicious purity, she made it hard to see how the role could be sung better…

The Times

One of the best motivations for making this recording, as far as I’m concerned, is the chance it affords conductor Charles Mackerras to preserve yet another of his superb operatic interpretations. His seemingly effortless command of colour, texture and balance, always to dramatic purpose and in fruitful collaboration with his cast marks him as a true master of this challenging score, and the Philharmonia orchestra plays gorgeously for him. The dream pantomime, for instance, is truly hypnotic.
Opera News

Jennifer Larmore’s swaggering Hansel is perfectly matched with Rebecca Evan’s radiant and unusually voluptuous Gretel. Jane Henschel, as the gleeful witch, really sings the music in neo-Wagnerian style, without too much cracking and exaggeration. The parents are strongly cast – Rosalind plowright and Robert Hayward. The opera is a little miracle, and this new English version – David Pountney’s translation – deserves to attract new generations of admirers.
The Sunday Times

Handel and Gretel is one of the supreme achievements of 19th Century opera, and a work that benefits immeasurably from being sung in the language of its audience… The conducting of Charles Mackerras is a major plus. His unfolding of the overture, both spacious and theatrical, is a model , just as the rapturous orchestral pantomime that closes the first act is perfectly judged…. A thoroughly enjoyable performance.
The Guardian

It is more or less a foregone conclusion that a recording of Hansel and Gretel conducted by Charles Mackerras will be a triumph, and this latest in Chandos’ Opera in English series proves this to be the case. For a all its Wagnerian cribbing and mixture of folksong with pictorialism, Humperdink’s masterpiece is a work of particular musical economy, and it is this sense of continuity and dramatic shape that, however piecemeal it might have been recorded, marks Mackerras’s interpretation: the first two acts played as if in one grand sweep from playful opening to serene angelic close; Act 3 travelling from dreamy dawn to ‘hexicidal’ victory on disc two…. Jane Henschel puts in a star performance as the Witch, not over-playing the characterisation in her use of vocal tone-colour, as some do, yet obviously enjoying the way such lines as ‘My names Rosina Lickspittle’ go from sweetness and light to malevolence in the twinkling of a barline.
The Telepgraph – Classical CD of the Week

 

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