Hänsel und Gretel. DVD, Glyndebourne 2009. Production: Laurent Pelly. Conductor: Kazushi Ono with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Cast: Jennifer Holloway (Hänsel), Adriana Kucerova (Gretel), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (witch), Klaus Kuttler (father), Irmgard Vilsmaier (mother).
As you press “play” on the DVD, a cardboard box is brought to the Glyndebourne Festival House during the Vorspiel and eventually passes through the hands of all the singers, thus presenting them for the viewer. For the audience present in the auditorium all they see is the front cover of the cardboard box. So what is inside the box? Well, the house of Hänsel and Gretel in fact. As Act 1 opens we are introduced to their poor home inside a humid, degrading card-board box. As a matter of fact there is a lot of trash in this production, quite literally speaking. Laurent Pelly, most well-known for fast-paced productions like Fille du Regiment, has created another fast-paced production, this time emphasizing consumerism and excess.
Everything is connected to the witch gingerbread house, the central image of the production, here a supermarket, full of candy. In the dying, naked wood into which Hänsel and Gretel are sent by their desperate mother, we see plenty of trash (from the supermarket). Even Hänsel and Gretel´s cardboard box home could easily be left-overs from the supermarket.
The siblings are the most authentic I believe I have seen, constant at play, jumping around the set. The transformation of Jennifer Holloway, a quite feminine singer into Hänsel is impressive. Equally impressive that Adriana Kucerova manages to look a 10-year old.
Tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke in ghastly pink drag is a fantastic storekeeper cum witch, with a somewhat vague ending to this existence though: He is simply pushed down in the depths of the supermarket.. according to Laurent Pelly this represents a cooking factory, again representing the root of consumerism but apart from some smoking chimneys in the background it did not seem that obvious.
Laurent Pelly explicitly wished to expel all signs of religion from the production and in the end when God is praised, instead the parents take plenty of goods from the supermarket. An ironic ending, a submission toconsumerism, Pelly says, but somehow I miss the point: If they are a poor family, constantly hungry, why is it ironic that they take food from the supermarket when they can? Never mind, the production is both funny and lively and I was excellently entertained throughout.
There is plenty of Wagner in the score, I was reminded of both Rhinemaidens, Giants and Parsifal, and Kazushi Ono brings all this out in a convincing reading.
Not to be missed: Watch the impressive Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke as the witch:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Adriana Kucerova: 5
Jennifer Holloway: 5
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke: 5
Laurent Pelly´s production: 5
Kazushi Oni: 5