College of Music

University of Colorado Boulder

Colorful, fantastical ‘Hansel and Gretel’ will appeal to all ages, March 14-16

February 21, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. — The German composer Engelbert Humperdinck composed the first music for his 1893 opera, “Hansel and Gretel,” in response to his sister, who asked if he’d set lyrics she’d written for her children as a Christmas surprise. 

Adelheid Wette would eventually write the libretto based on the famous Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, and the opera became something much more grand than originally conceived 

“It morphed from a children’s puppet show into a great opera,” says Leigh Holman, director of CU Opera, which will perform “Hansel and Gretel” March 14-16 at Macky Auditorium. “Humperdinck adored the music of Wagner, so the orchestral music is very Wagnerian. It’s sweeping, with broad lines and great melodies. It’s really strong and wonderful.”

The opera hews closely to the original fairy tale, with a few key alterations. Rather than being abandoned by their parents, the two children venture into the forest in search of strawberries. There also are roles for angels who appear in the children’s dreams and the spirits of children eaten by the dreadful witch with the gingerbread house, who return to life following the intrepid siblings’ triumph.

Fourteen dancers from the CU Department of Theatre and Dance and the Longmont Dance Theatre Academy will perform the part of the angels. And an innovative partnership, about 50 students from Black Rock Elementary School in Erie and 10 other local Boulder area children will sing and perform as the lost children.

The opera will feature the vivid, candy-colored set of the forest and gingerbread house used in CU Opera’s last performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” in 2005. Stage lighting will be designed by New York-based designer Peter Dean Beck. 

The opera, which will be performed in German with English surtitles, is both sophisticated and accessible and will resonate with all ages, Holman says. 

“This is going to be a colorful and fantastical production complete with magic spells and exploding ovens,” she says. “It’s a little like watching ‘Harry Potter’ in an opera.”


Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”

Sung in German with English surtitles

When: 7:30 p.m. March 14-15; 2 p.m. March 16

Where: Macky Auditorium, University of Colorado Boulder campus

Tickets: $14 and up

Info: or 303-492-8008

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