Opera Scotland

Hansel and Gretel 2017Opera North

Read more about the opera Hansel and Gretel

At OperaScotland we generally try to chronicle the activities of Scottish companies wherever they perform. We also record performances in Scotland by visiting companies - a recent example being the trip of Opera North to Edinburgh with excellent stagings of Billy Budd and a Puccini double-bill.

  • We have not so far featured performances outside Scotland by non-Scottish companies. However, as it is within our remit to encourage opera-going in all its forms, it seems logical that we should include Newcastle-upon-Tyne as a performance venue. It is a convenient destination for Scots in the borders and Edinburgh area to visit, and many do that from time to time.

The current season of Opera North spotlights three contrasting operas derived from folk or 'fairy' tales. While each production has a different director, a decision has been taken to use one set, the components of which can be re-arranged easily. An added advantage of this quick change is to allow the introduction of a Saturday matinee. While two of these operas, Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck) and La cenerentola (Rossini) can be classed as popular favourites, the third is a great rarity and well worth catching in Newcastle itself or later at Salford, Belfast or finally Nottingham.

The production by Edward Dick was given a present day setting. The back wall, with a single window and door, was used throughout for video projections, while the kitchen furnishings, apart from the central table, were arrayed along left and right walls. These included cooker, washing machine, microwave and fridge. Not only were the children dressed in a range of modern fashions, but they also had a video camera with which to film themselves in the opening sequences, with their singing heads projected on that back wall. Indeed the only real sign of acute poverty was the solitary jug of milk in that fridge. The parents were shown to be not so much poor, but feckless. When the kids were in the witch's house the fridge had become stocked with all sorts of garishly wrapped confections for them to scoff - and film with that camera. The only really jarring element was the appearance at the end of a Christmas tree during the strawberry season.

This production was first seen at Leeds Grand Theatre on 2 February (matinee), with further performances on 4, 15, 18 and 25 (m) February. On tour the dates were: Newcastle 1 and 4 March; Salford 8 and 11 March; Belfast 15 and 18 March; and Nottingham 22 and 25 March.

The schedule for the Newcastle visit, starting Wednesday 1 March was: Wed Hansel and Gretel; Thu Cenerentola; Fri Snow Maiden; Sat mat Cenerentola; Sat eve Hansel and Gretel. The order of performance is identical at the later venues.

The musical side of the performance was to a consistently high standard, with two casts alternating on tour. Christoph Altstaedt conducted in Leeds, and took the first Newcastle performance, which introduced the second cast. On the final Saturday, Justin Doyle was giving his first performance in the pit, along with the first cast singers  All that need be said is that there was no indication that this was his first performance.

 Fflur Wyn and Katie Bray were near-ideal as a pair of stroppy teenagers. Susan Bullock doubled as mother and witch with great success, The two characters were very different however - the opportunity was not taken to introduce an extra layer of fear, as Pauline Tinsley did in the old Pountney production at ENO. The effect then was quite disturbing. Stephen Gadd made a firm impression in the short role of the father, not as ineffectual as some.

Performance Cast


Ellie Laugharne (Mar 1)

Fflur Wyn (Mar 4)


Heather Lowe (Mar 1)

Katie Bray (Mar 4)

Gertrude mother of Hansel and Gretel

Sarah Pring (Mar 1)

Susan Bullock (Mar 4)

Peter a broom maker and father of Hansel and Gretel

Phillip Rhodes (Mar 1)

Stephen Gadd (Mar 4)


Rachel J Mosley

Dew Fairy

Amy Freston


Sarah Pring (Mar 1)

Susan Bullock (Mar 4)

Performance DatesHansel and Gretel 2017

Map List

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

1 Mar, 19.00 4 Mar, 19.00

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