UA’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ magical, director says

UA’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ magical, director says


The University of Arkansas Opera Theatre will present the opera “Hansel and Gretel” by the 19th century composer Engelbert Humperdinck on Nov. 21 and 22 at the University Theater on campus. The first production of the opera was conducted by Richard Strauss during the holiday season in Germany. Since then, it’s become popular holiday fare in Europe.

“It’s funny!” marvels stage director Laura Shatkus, who is collaborating with music director Hyun Kim. Humperdinck chose to interpret the original Grimm’s fairy tale in a much lighter fashion.

“It’s cute and funny, and that’s written right into not only the text but into the accompaniment. I love the magic of it. There are several characters who are unique to the Humperdinck version, the Dew Fairy and the Sandman. Both of those characters are super interesting — they’re spooky and positive at the same time,” Shatkus says. “I love that we get to explore the witch and what her motivation is. Digging a little deeper, I think she’s a metaphor for capitalism and greed — I mean, she wants to eat children, the most innocent beings on earth who have almost no power, but she wants to take that from them. She’s the manifestation of greed.

“We can find people in our lives or in the news like that, can’t we?,” she wonders aloud. “So we really enjoy when she gets tricked. [Hansel and Gretel] outsmart her, and that’s very satisfying to watch.”

The production will also feature a performance by the University of Arkansas Children’s Choir.

Shatkus, an MFA graduate of the UA Department of Theatre and producing/artistic director of ArkansasStaged, says she is relatively new to directing opera but hopes there will be more opera productions in her future.

“These people who sing opera are magical,” she says.

Rehearsals have primarily been held during 90-minute class time, three days a week, but with two different casts performing, that means half the rehearsal time for each, a short amount of time to mount such an ambitious project.

“What comes out of their mouths — I am in awe of them,” Shatkus says. “It’s a form of theater that is so new to me — my first experience with opera was at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, maybe six years ago, and I was floored. But now I seek it out whenever I can find it.”



‘Hansel and Gretel’:

An Opera By Engelbert Humperdinck

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21-22

WHERE — University of Arkansas Theater, 453 Garland Ave., Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 575-4701

Categories: Music