December 20, 2009

Hansel and Gretel at the Met

Thanks to the kind people at the Met, I was able to attend the premiere last Monday, the 14th. I took my Tita Ermie, my mom's best friend from college who has been living in NYC since 1967. She used to be a season ticket holder for the Met Opera but has lately decided to just pick and choose which productions she goes see. "I mean, how many times can one see Carmen?" Yeah, she's that much of an opera buff.

Tita Ermie was quite excited to see "Hansel and Gretel". I however was a bit apprehensive. About 12 years ago, I went with some friends to see "Don Giovanni" and I thought I was going to go crazy. The music was slow, the production was long, and I was wearing wool socks and pants and thought I would kill someone with how warm they kept the theatre.

So I was prepared this time. Dressed in layers, no wool socks, and Hansel and Gretel was their "kid-friendly" production so an opera novice like me should be okay. Plus we had great seats in the orchestra so there was less of a chance of me going insane.

Let me start by saying that I forgot how utterly large the stage is at the Met. I was there a week ago for the backstage tour yet is still was not enough to prepare me for how tall the stage is. The orchestra was full and lavish, which is one of the things that keeps Tita Ermie coming back for more.

She did however have some comments about the set, saying that she didn't like how "spare" it looked. I thought it was clever and very modern how they did their sets, especially the forest. Instead of the usual trees, they decorated it like a huge dining room with foliage wall paper, an antler chandelier, and a long wooden dining room. The trees were men in somber gray suits with tree trucks as heads and branches for arms. It was more Metropolitan Home than Metropolitan Opera. The gingerbread house was represented by a screen with a modernist painting of a mouth and teeth surrounded by what I can only describe as a big swirly gum (think Van Gogh's sun but in red and pink). There was also a cupcake perched on top of a tongue that was wheeled around stage but words could never really accurately describe what that was.

There were also some modern takes with the costumes, like the way Hansel and Gretel have on the traditional German kids jumpsuit and dress whereas their parents wore modern office clothing.

Now for the music. Did I already mention that I am not a huge opera fan? The pieces always seem to open with melodies that were accessible or "catchy" then it would slowly progress to more minor keys that are said to express the "darkness" of the Brothers Grimm fair tale. This is when I would get lost and start looking at the set and read the subtitles more. The main parts were played well, but it was the cross dressing witch that stole the show, with her ghastly bingo arms and deep voice.

The show did not make me an opera fan, but it did give me a reason to be more curious about it. Maybe after seeing the Magic Flute? "Carmen is a good one for you to see," replied my Tita. Somehow though, I have a feeling she will not be accompanying me for that.


Lani said...

Great review Mike! I'm not an opera fan myself. Lynn and I went to see Don Giovanni the puppet show version in Prague and I was falling asleep :)

Pinky said...

Nice review Mike!

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