Engelbert Humperdinck's opera Hansel and
Gretel (1893) received a wonderful performance by the Governor's
School for the Arts Department of Vocal Music on April 12, 13 and 14
at the Roper Performing Arts Center.
There were many young children in the audience
and I wondered how they would react. It is one thing to keep the attention
of adults and quite another to hold the interest of the six-year-old
a few seats from us. He was on the edge of his seat waiting for the
witch. It worked for all of us and it was a great show. The sets were
the most elaborate we have seen at any GSA production and the thirty
piece orchestra necessitated the use of sound enhancement for the voices.
The voices were wonderful. Usaully the roles
of the children are done by adults playing at being children. The teenage
singers looked and sounded the parts and had exciting vocal tones. Singing
the opera in English began in 1894 in London, just one year after it
Two complete casts performed. We saw the
Saturday night cast. In a libretto based on a Grimm fairy tale and written
by the composer's sister Adelhaid Wette, the chief characters are brother
and sister: Hansel played by Rae Wynn-Grant and Gretel played by Jessie
Buckman. After a lively and tuneful overture we first see the children
outside a rustic cottage. He is making a broom and she wants him to
play. Soon they are romping and singing an old German folk tune and
she teaches him to dance. The singers create a believable and charming
scene with their clear diction and sweet tones and the audience is drawn
into the story. Miss Wynn-Grant and Miss Buckman appear in every scene
of the opera but one and have no trouble carrying the show.
The Mother, Gertrud, appears and is cross
with the children and sends them into the forest to pick strawberries.
Megan Murray sings the role and evokes our pity for her family's poverty.
Exhausted, she falls asleep only to be awakened when Andrew Seay as
the father, Peter, comes home singing from the market fair where he
was able to sell all their home-made brooms and buy food. You first
hear his fine baritone voice from off-stage, and if you've attended
other GSA events, it's unmistakable. He is happy until he learns that
the children are in the forest where the witch lives. He panics and
the parents rush to look for them.
The children do find berries and pick a
basketful but they get tired and end up resting and eating the berries.
It is beginning to get dark and Gretel is scared. Hansel reassures her
that he will take care of her. They lie down to sleep and the forest
magic takes over as they sing their evening prayer. This calls forth
the fourteen angels to guard them and the Sandman played by Christine
Loyola who beautifully sings I am the Sleep Fairy as she sprinkles
fairy dust in their eyes so they will sleep happily.
The next morning they are awakened by the
Dew Fairy, excellently sung by Sarah Piscitelli, and discover the gingerbread
house. When they start eating it for breakfast, out pops the witch played
by Danielle Walker, who does a fine job of terrifying the children on
stage and in the audience. Gretel is smart and tricks the witch to put
her head in the oven to see if it is hot enough to roast Hansel, and
pushes her in.
Eventually, the parents show up and so do
all the children trapped by the witch's magic. There is a great celebration
by all and singing and dancing end the evening.
The stage direction was by Vernon Hartman,
who often sings at the Metropolitan Opera. Alan Fisher was the conductor.
Once again, Alan has given our community a wonderful gift of music through
the talents of so many fine young singers and instrumentalists. Thanks
December Songs Returns Fully Staged
What do December Songs and Andrea Chénier have in common?
Singers from the Governor's School for the Arts! Alan Fischer, chairman of the vocal music department sang the roles of L'Incredible and Abate in Virginia Opera's Andrea Chénier and
four of the five vocalists for December Songs were
in the chorus of Chénier: Eboni Amos, Jessie Buckman, Bethany Wherry and Crystal Williams.
They were joined by Raye Wynn-Grant in a fully staged presentation
of December Songs conceived and directed by Fischer and performed on January 18th and 19th
at the Black Box Theatre. Fischer and seven students had met with the composer Maury Yeston in
NYC in early 2002. While Yeston's work had been staged with dancers, together they conceived of staging
it with only singers. December Songs was written for one voice, but in this staging five young women
acted and sang the heroine at various stages in the evolution of a relationship that ended in a breakup.
These glorious young singers did a fine job with these interesting songs, part cabaret,
part art song. Bethany Wherry's diction was outstanding in its clarity, but
all were good. For more information see our review of March 20, 2002, Issue #9.
The cooperation of Shaun Crawford, designer/technical director and
Steve J. Earle, chairman of the theatre department helped make it possible.
The program titled Mood Swings! also included 6 Short
Comedies written by Christopher Durang and acted by a talented and enthusiastic troupe of GSA students.
Governors School for the Arts Spring Dance Concert
Carmina Burana by Carl Orff was a major showcase for many
talented local performers at the Wells Theater May 30 and 31, 2003. In this chamber performance
Alan Fischer conducted, Robert Brown and Michael Regan were on piano, Nick Bartolotta was the timpanist and James
Session was the percussionist. Robert Brown directed the chorus of some thirty well-trained
students who sang this difficult music with panache. The musicians were in the pit, the dancers were
on stage and the chorus was in the boxes, females on the right and males on the left form our perspective in the audience.
Todd Rosenlieb was the choreographer and Jorja Jean did the
medieval styled costumes. We had an excellent experience of so much creativity
and talent from the Governor's School for the Arts students and faculty.
The first half of the program was with recorded music. Heart
of the Gaels was colorful and very happy in mood, based on Celtic music and dance.
Paquita had Viennese music and provided a showcase for a number of classical ballet solos and duets,
all in beautiful traditional costumes.
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