Oct 27, 2008


In my, admittedly short, life, I've never cared much for cared much for the whole reading thing. But, if there's one thing that can get me to crack the books, it's opera. With Hansel and Gretel, I was really intrigued by the original story and our director Chuck Hudson's concepts (part of which come from his extensive studies on mythologies.) So I got me to a library and learned me some stuff.

Many of you may know that the original Grimm Brothers' fairy tales are not the sanitized Disney versions. There's a lot of violence and malice. (For instance, in the Grimms' Hansel and Gretel, the parents purposefully abandon the children in the forest. In the opera, the children are only sent there to find food.)

The tales were initially intended as reading for adults. But, as the Grimms realized the stories were being told to children, they cleaned up the tales a bit. Interestingly, they didn't edit out much of the violence; it seemed to function as a sort of bonus to the morals of the stories.

Indeed, as the purpose of preserving the fairy tales transformed into providing stories for children, the Grimms became intent on making them a "manual of manners." Thus, there was a lot of praying. There's carryover in the opera, as you see above with Hansel and Gretel singing their evening prayers.

Mother (Dana Beth Miller) and Father (Todd Thomas) gettin' friendly.

In the original version of the Grimms Hansel and Gretel, the mother was a biological mother, but by the fourth edition, they turned her into a step-mother. (This preserves the idea of real mothers as innocent and nurturing, allowing the step-mother to be a bee-yotch.)

In the opera as well, the Mother character is a step-mother.

Patricia and Anya: sleepin' on the job.

Das ist nicht gud! The Grimms really believed their stories were uniquely German--both reflecting and shaping national identity. Ok, fine. Unfortunately, when along came Hitler, the Nazis really liked Grimms' fairy tales and used them to endorse racial pride. Hitler even used Hansel and Gretel as an allegory of Nazi youth overthrowing Jews. Oh, hells NO!

I think all this history behind Hansel and Gretel makes it even more fascinating to watch the opera. Of course, it's entertaining and magical in and of itself, which is why it's popular for kids.

Now, my fair readers, I assume you already have your tickets to Hansel and Gretel. But if you don't, you'd best do so before I go The Birds on ya. (I have connections in the avian world.)

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Quite the extensive commentary, Carl. Thanks for the updates.