Opera Returns to College

Drew Kaplan ’20, Editor-in-Chief

The Dickinson College Department of Music staged a production of Hansel and Gretel to large crowds on Friday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 16. According to Assistant Professor of Music James Martin, although the college’s production was shortened, the still “graduate level and above” show was enjoyed the audiences. 

The stage of Rubendall Auditorium was converted into a forest to set the stage of the show, written and composed by Engelbert Humperdink and directed by Martin. Set in Medieval Germany, the show follows two children, Hansel and Gretel, played by Zoe Muller ’22 and Abby Duell ’20, respectively, as they become lost in the woods and, eating from the gingerbread house, are captured by a witch, played by Hannah Youmans ’22. During the journey, Hansel and Gretel interact with the Queen of the Wood, played by Elisabeth Warren ’22, the Sandman, played by Maddie Carroll ’22, and the Dew Fairy, played by Asha Tran ’20, amongst others. 

Martin, who played the father, explained in an email that “had a perfect cast for the opera.” He explained that the show itself “is actually a very difficult opera for young singers because it requires a particular set of voices.  We just happen to have a very special line up of singers this cycle from first years to seniors.” 

“It is wonderful that so many people from the Dickinson community and the wider Carlisle com-munity came to see Hansel and Gretel” explained Duell, “the most meaningful moments were when young children, who are harsh critics of fairytales, continued to speak to me after the show as “Gretel.” That was when I knew I had done my job: made the story truly come alive for the audi-ence with music and acting.”

Martin explained that the production is “a family-friendly, accessible opera,” and that the for both dates, the audience exceeded the capacity of the space. “I hate that we had to turn people away be-cause we were at capacity, but I am so grateful for the reception we received on both days” said Martin, “I am most ecstatic about the number of Dickinsonians, young and old, that came out to support us.  We had Trustees, students, professors, and community members in the audience.” 

Martin explained that the colleges production was shortened from standard, though much of this came from cutting out orchestral interludes due to the production being done just with the piano. The result was that the show, which normally runs for approximately three hours, was performed in around 75 minutes. Martin noted however that the “integrity of the original libretto and score” was maintained.

Audience reactions to the show were positive. “I thought it was a very fun way to spend a Sunday” said Carl Hamilton ’21, “it was definitely very different from what Dickinson [College] usually does, and I liked that it appealed to a wider swath of the community.”

“I really enjoyed it. I thought it was so fun” added Audrey Schlimm ’20, “I was thinking some-thing like Germanic folktale opera, which it was, but it was also funny and had some kind of inter-esting moments.”

“The hard work which students had put into the preparation for this performance was evident” said Viktoriya Zamova ’21. 

Opening night had a wild, excited energy with all the Dickinson students.  They seemed to really enjoy the jokes and the youthful energy of the cast” said Martin, “the Sunday audience had more kids who were truly enthralled with the magic of the afternoon.  I am just so proud of the entire cast.”

“I could not have asked for a more supportive and safe environment in which to take risks both vocally and theatrically as I prepared my first ever principal role” said Duell, “I am so grateful to Professor Martin for creating this opportunity, and to all the cast and crew who made it a truly wonderful experience. 

“I hope we see more opera type productions like this in the future” Hamilton added.

“This production calls for lyric and dramatic roles, voices not found in abundance, and definitely not at this level of development or in a department of music on a liberal arts campus” said Martin, “most conservatories shy away from this opera. We’re lucky to have them. Very lucky.”

According to the Dickinson College website, Hansel and Gretel was performed by “Lyric Perfor-mance Practicum, a group of Dickinson voice students who perform staged scenes and songs from operas and musical theatre.” Past productions by the group have included Madame Butterfly, Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, The Tempest and Lakmé. Hansel and Gretel is the first opera put on by the college since the 1990s.