One of the most well-known tales by folklore authors the Brothers Grimm is “Hansel and Gretel,” which tells the adventure of a brother and sister who lose their way one day in the woods.
The siblings, Hansel and Gretel, are lured into the gingerbread house of a dreadful old witch who bakes helpless children in her oven and feasts on their young flesh. In the end, however, she is no match for clever Hansel and Gretel.
While the fairy tale has inspired several adaptations, one of the most enduring versions dates back to the late 19th century, when composer Engelbert Humperdinck turned the story into an opera of the same title. Over the years, his adaptation has become a favorite among opera fans, especially during Christmas time.
On Wednesday night, Jakarta will welcome another opera version of the fairy tale when members of the Jakarta Opera present “Hansel and Gretel” in two acts at the Usmar Ismail Hall in Kuningan, South Jakarta. Director Ian Philip Peirson said the story was perfect for this time of year.
“We chose ‘Hansel and Gretel’ because it’s such a lovely Christmas opera,” Peirson said. “Musically and theatrically, it’s a piece that reaches out to the whole family. The music is from the German romantic tradition and it uses catchy folk songs.”
The Jakarta Opera performed “Hansel and Gretel” three years ago to a full house at the British International School World Theater, and now the ensemble is set for another successful showing.
When asked about his approach to the story, Peirson said: “It is a modern interpretation that remains sympathetic to the characters.”
In addition to the classic characters — Hansel and Gretel, their parents and, of course, the witch — the opera will feature a fairy who appears to the children in the woods at dawn, as well as a sandman who helps them fall asleep by sprinkling his magic sand on them.
Peirson, who teaches performing arts at the British International School, has been directing operas since 1991. During his time in the Indonesian capital he has directed “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell, “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens, “The Telephone” by Gian Carlo Menotti and “The Impresario” and “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In addition to his English language productions, Peirson has also directed the Indonesian opera “Loro Jonggrang,” which is based on the popular Javanese folk tale of a knight and a cursed princess.
In the process, he has collaborated with a number of famous Indonesian performers.
“The Jakarta Opera has been producing operas since 2006 and has worked with many of the best classical singers in the city, such as Binu D.Sukaman, Aning Katamsi and Linda Sitinjak,” said Peirson, who is also a member of Indonesian vocal ensemble Batavia Madrigal Singers.
Binu, one of Indonesia’s leading and most prolific soprano singers, starred in “Hansel and Gretel” three years ago as the witch and will take up the same role again in the show this year.
With past performances in Morocco, Italy, Austria and France, Binu will bring an international flair to the production, which marks her third collaboration with the Jakarta Opera.
Another familiar face, Devi Fransisca will also return to the Jakarta stage after playing Gretel in the production three years ago.
Regina Handoko, who will take over the part of Hansel this year, held the title role as Cinderella in the Jakarta Opera’s production last year.
Anita Kristiana and Budi Prakoso will round off the cast as Hansel and Gretel’s parents, who send their children to find food and later rush out to search for them, wracked with feelings of guilt.
For this year’s performance, the Jakarta Opera chose to collaborate with the music school Musicasa, which Peirson says was an excellent decision.
“Their musical director is a renowned Indonesian baritone and teacher, Joseph Kristanto Pantioso,” Peirson said. “The collaboration with Musicasa has made the process much more efficient. They have some excellent teachers and singers.”
Hansel and Gretel
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Usmar Ismail Hall,
Jl. Rasuna Said Kav. C-22,
Kuningan, South Jakarta
For information please contact
0815 14269616 (Indonesian) or
0813 11007902 (English)
Tickets from Rp 100,000