The very short apotheosis at the end of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” at Hubbard Hall made me think of confluences — the building, the performers, the audience. All of these were here in a gentle and honest synch. It was the most evenly cast opera I have heard in this venue. The staging was honest. The two singers in the title roles were convincing in the simplest way. They looked right, and they sounded right. In the dream sequence, which no staging can match, director Dianna Heldman brought to me a naturalness which was moving in its humility and acceptance of the place in which it was performed. The old hall itself seemed an ideal house for this reality. Nothing which Alexina Jones and Kara Cornell did as Gretel and Hansel was prolix. There was no fake childishness. Humperdinck could be said to have produced an adult’s version of what childhood is- simple tunes, good things to eat, etc. I suppose when compared to “The Magic Flute”, an opera which really is childlike, this is true. But this dead-honest production and its raptly attentive audience in the golden light of the hall made it seem a miracle. There were no weak links on stage, and there were no false steps in the staging. It was great.
Kara Cornell, who sang and acted such a brilliant Carmen at Hubbard Hall last summer, and I recently shared a pleasant Australian blend at the Wine Bar on Lark in Albany, where we reminisced about Carmen—actually Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, and talked about next summer’s production, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, in which, as Hansel, she will make a total about face from the dangerous gypsy. Considering Kara’s vivid and very funny Cherubino in the Capital Opera’s Nozze di Figaro last summer, she should be equally successful as the pre-pubescent wood-cutter’s boy. Knowing stage director Dianna Heidman’s sophistication and originality, I can foresee that Hansel and Gretel will go well beyond the usual family entertainment.