Opera Scotland

Hansel and Gretel 2017Le Petit Verre

Read more about the opera Hansel and Gretel

It is a pleasure to report the launch of another new group of student performers based at Edinburgh University. Le Petit Verre Opera Productions presented their very first staging, and a very challenging one, Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.

Initially an orchestra of twenty-five was advertised, though in the event the programme listed some forty musicians. These students certainly played with enthusiasm, and while there were inevitably still some rough edges (we were at the second performance) it was a thoroughly enjoyable delivery under conductor Caroline Lesemann-Elliott of what is, essentially, a Wagnerian piece.

All six soloists were generally good at delivering their words - something that the singers in full-scale stagings often struggle with. Hansel (Claire Lumsden) and Gretel (Alexandra Elvidge) both projected with a good sense of style and subtlety, without being overwhelmed by the other players. The parents used their more powerful voices to project character - Mum (Deborah Holborn) being distinctly tetchy while Dad (Patrick Dodd) projected a far mellower individual altogether, almost feckless.

After the interval the performance was, rightly, dominated by a cleanly projected, incisively declaimed performance of the Witch (Hebe James). Her cackles were kept under control - not as grotesque as some performers of the role. The Sandman (Alicia Pettit) displayed a beautifully sweet-toned soprano - again every word was clear.

The concept 

The setting was described as ''a post-apocalyptic cityscape that is home to two youngsters, Hansel and Gretel, who are plagued by abusive parents and starvation. Upon ejection from the shack they call home, the two set out in search of sustenance, only to find the ghosts of their own fears lurking in the corners of what's left of civilisation. Their tale involves a hallucinogenic journey to hell and back, which is marked by the presence of a terrifying witch with a thirst for the flesh of children.''

Attempts to reframe the fairy tale are common. This effort was presented in modern dress, but otherwise the apocalyptic nature of the scheme was not overdone by director Carey Andrews. The stage was small, dominated by the projection screen. There was otherwise little by way of a set. The Witch had a table cluttered with implements of a culinary nature. She had three black-clad Japanese-style 'invisible' scene shifters who began to outstay their welcome until they realised the danger their mistress was in, but couldn't get the message across to her.

The opera was cut slightly to accommodate the lack of a chorus - and the charming music for the Dew Fairy was also omitted, which was a shame. This has sometimes been doubled by the singer of the Sandman.

Operatic debut 

In all, a promising and very enjoyable debut, greeted with enthusiasm by a mixed audience of perhaps one hundred. 

Of interest too was the use of a redundant church, Assembly Roxy. This venue, only a short walk from the Festival Theatre, made an ideal space with an excellent acoustic. 

Let us hope also that after this promising artistic debut, Le Petit Verre will rise to the critical business challenge of sustainability.

See Le Petit Verre's promotional clip here


Performance Cast


Claire Lumsden


Alex Elvidge

Gertrude mother of Hansel and Gretel

Deborah Miller

Peter a broom maker and father of Hansel and Gretel

Patrick Dodd


Alicia Pettit


Hebe James

Performance DatesHansel and Gretel 2017

Map List

Assembly Roxy | Edinburgh

9 Nov, 19.30 11 Nov, 19.30

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