Assist. Arts & Culture Editor
Opera and children’s stories are not often two things that are placed together. However, with the gender role switching, comedic villainy, and overall steampunk style, the OperaLancaster rendition of “Hansel and Gretel” made the original fairytale look lackluster and shallow.
The performance took place on Friday, March 7th at 7:30 at Millersville University’s Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center, with two other performances taking place on Thursday the 6th and Saturday the 8th at 7:30 and 2:00, respectively.
The musical showcased the talents of local operatic performers as well as highlighting the versatility of Robert Brubaker, a past Met performer.
The opera featured soprano Joanie Brittingham as Gretel, mezzo-soprano Maja Lisa FritzHuspen as Hansel, tenor Robert Brubaker as the Witch, baritone Daniel Lickteig as Father, mezzo-soprano Saralee Riggs as Mother, soprano Heidi Shannon as Sandman, and Patricia Virgil as the Dew Fairy.
While opera and humor are not inherently codependent, Stage Director Patricia Kautter managed to flawlessly bring the two together all the while managing to tie in suspense and an element of the supernatural. FrizHuspen was a flawless Hansel, managing to be entirely convincing as a young male despite being an adult female. Brittingham was equally impressive, conveying the terror of a young, lost girl with nowhere to turn but to her brother. The entire cast was flawless in portraying their various characters, but the icing on the cake goes to Robert Brubaker as the Witch. He came out on stage with a dark wig and a long skirt, looking every bit an old woman. Then, as the performance progressed and the wickedness of the Witch was revealed, Brubaker ditched the wig and conservative attire for a corset and skirt, an outfit that truly enhanced the undertones of steampunk.
While the plotline of the story was unfolding, there was a parallel performance taking place as the members of the Cobalt Dance Company twirled and spun on stage. Travis Love, Isabella Williams, Lyric Williams, Magnolia Williams, Lindsay Slough, and Kirsten Yeager wowed the audience as they danced together and showcased the talents of Cobalt.
The performance was a beautiful mix of professional and novice performers, featuring the Gingerbread Chorus, comprised of Aenea Aubrey, Allison Chang, Jess Chesnutt, Madeline Helm, Garrett Koleda, Caleb Metzler, Daphne Meyers, Isle Ness, Phil Norris, Carter Palmer, Aidia Rodriguez, Georgia Rodriguez, Gilead Rodriguez, Elsa Rogers, Justus Rogers, Lisel Rogers, Mia Rogers, Rosie Westgate, Lily Williams, Molly Yacoviello, and Ava Yuniger.
In true operatic fashion, the performance also featured an in house orchestra to complement the singing and dancing. The orchestra highlighted Morgann Davies on the flute, Kathy Horein on oboe, Christy Banks and Michelle Kiec on clarinet, Kimberly Buchar and Gail Ober on bassoon, Curtis Palmer and Jason Blome on trumpet, Cheryl Staherski and Anne Marie Nye on horn, Rick Staherski on trombone, Jeff Thomas on percussion, Eunice Kim on harp, Michael Jamanis, the Concert Master, Ning Mu and Stephanie McCullough on violin, Amanda Krauss and John Herr on second violin, Christy Kauffman and John Hamilton on viola, Laurie Reese and Kathryn Westerlund on cello, and Don Grabowski on bass.
Patricia Kautter discussed the story of Hansel and Gretel, and how it is mostly up in the air for interpretation. Some stage it as a reprimand for societal greediness while others use it simply for entertainment. Regardless of the interpretation, Kautter says that “the beauty of art in all its forms, from story, to dance, to opera, is that it offers each individual the chance to reflect on what is seen and heard… There is no right or wrong.”
For more information on OperaLancaster, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OperaLancaster.