REVIEW: Opera North production of Hansel and Gretel, Leeds Grand Theatre

editorial image

Opera North has a genius for updating operas, without resorting to gimmicks – and the productions of Humpderinck’s most famous work

Translating the Grimm Brothers’ children from their Black Forest hovel to a council high-rise can never be done seamlessly.

For example, there is no sign of gingerbread and the fourteen angels had to go, replaced by a dream sequence holiday which is set, you guessed it, in Scarborough.

The forest scenes are all achieved by projecting trees onto the walls of the family flat, turning their nightmares into a Blair Witch encounter.

This is a tour de force of video projection by Ian William Galloway and Director Edward Dick.

Katie Bray as Hansel and Fflur Wyn as Gretel are the neglected brother and sister looking out for each other.

They need to, they have to contend with their mother and The Witch (both played by the splendid Susan Bullock).

What comes over from each of these three actors is a real relish for the gruesome aspects of the opera. After all, the Witch is intent on eating the children as soon as the oven is hot enough.

New to Opera North, Christoph Altstaedt conducts the orchestra with calm assurance.

Much of the comedy comes from the physical acting of the principals, though the English libretto wastes few opportunities for exaggeration and punning.

This is not a comfortable evening’s fairy-tale and I hope the children in the audience slept well that night.

Hansel and Gretel runs at Leeds Grand Theatre to February and then it is touring.

The Opera North season also includes producitons of Cinderella and the Snow Maiden.

Tickets on 0844 848 2700.