UA Opera Theatre performers ranging from second-graders to graduate students told the story of the 19th century fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” through an opera vocal performance at the University Theatre Nov. 21-22.
Initially, I was unsure about how a family friendly opera performance would naturally intertwine with the plot of “Hansel and Gretel,” while engaging college students and children. I quickly realized the performance of each song was much like dialogue, with each scene told through lyrics, keeping everyone interested and focused on the performance from each actor or actress.
Collaborating with the Department of Music and the Department of Theatre for the performance, members of the University of Arkansas Children’s Choir ranging from second through sixth grade performed in the show.
“Hansel and Gretel” is the story of a brother and his younger sister finding themselves in an unfortunate situation with a witch and her oven. The siblings rely on each other and formulate a plan to find their way back home.
Between the two nights of showing “Hansel and Gretel,” two separate groups of performers were cast for each role.
On the opening night of “Hansel and Gretel,” Ashley Trotter, a sophomore who played Hansel, and Emily Auten, a junior who played Gretel, sung themes of braveness and childhood during the first act, while hitting notes of fear and mistrust in the second act.
Full of laughing and dancing, the first scene of the play sounds youthful, creating a mood of opportunity and happiness. Gradually, this mood transitions into a darker and more mysterious tone while the siblings walk through the dark forest. Musical director Hyun Kim mirrored the tone of music to each scene.
I thought the set, although minimalistic, felt appropriate for the performance. The focus was on the plot of the story and the voices of the performers. Also simple, the costumes for Hansel and Gretel remained the same for the whole performance.
Through music and staging, the creative design elements complimented each other tastefully while leaving room for interpretation.
Although it took a while to develop the characters and set, and the first act felt lengthy, the performances never felt boring. During this time, the play introduced Hansel, Gretel, the siblings’ mother, played by Gloria Deveraux, a graduate student whose voice was unbelievable, and the siblings’ father, played by Kyle Forehand, a senior.
During the second act, I was extremely impressed by Hansel and Gretel’s endurance in continuing to sing in amazing pitch and on style, and I thought the acting was on point as well.
The Dew Fairy, played by Rachael Foster, a sophomore, walked towards the stage from the right aisle. I found her character to be full of life, she brought a child-like feel to the stage that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Hearing about the making, preparation and struggles of this production made the story of “Hansel and Gretel,” feel triumphant. This production exposed many young people to an art form from the past that I hope to hear more of in the future.