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November 09, 1994 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-11-09

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'Hansel and Gretel' leaves a trail of magic
University students and children prepare to perform a classic opera

Engelbert Humperdink capably
demonstrated how to walk that fine
line between mass audience appeal and
artistic integrity when he composed his
first opera, "Hansel and Gretel," 100
years ago. Originally composed as fam-
ily entertainment, it contains a wealth
of popular folk melodies, and its narra-
tive is based on a simple fairy tale. Yet
its sophisticated, Wagnerian harmo-
nies and orchestration entice even the
most devout opera enthusiasts. The
broad appeal of his best-known work
will no doubt be an asset to the Univer-
sity of Michigan School of Music Op-
era Theatre when it presents the opera
for four performances at the Power
Center, beginning Thursday night.
Directed by Joshua Major with
music direction by Martin Katz, it will
be sung in English using the Tom
Hammond translation. Katz explained,
"While I am a big advocate of doing
opera in the original language, on this
occasion only, I felt that to include all
ofthe citizens ofAnn Arbor, especially
those under 10 years old, we should do
it in English.
"There are many translations avail-
able, and the one I picked is the only
one that follows the original rhyme
scheme of the German all of the time...
so I feel that the singers and the audi-
ence are getting the feeling of a fairy
tale in rhyme the way it was intended,
but they're still able to hear words that
they understand."
Katz is a member of the University
School of Music faculty and has built a
distinguished worldwide reputation as
an accompanist for such popular vocal
artists as Jose Carreras, Cecilia Bartoli,
Frederica von Stade and Kiri Te
Kanawa. "Since I've spent my whole
career working with (singers)," he said,
"I thinkI know how they think and how
they breathe, so that's already half the
ball game right there."
Loosely based on the Brothers

Grimm fairy tale, the story goes as
follows: Siblings Hansel and Gretel are
punished for spilling milk while ca-
rousing about the house, and are sent
into the woods to gather strawberries.
Naturally, they get lost, and night ap-
proaches. A merciful Sandman visits
the hungry and fearful children and
puts them to sleep, and they are guarded
by a group of angels. Awakened in the
morning by a Dew Fairy, they notice
that they're a few steps away from a
gingerbread cottage.
Before they get to satisfy their ap-
petites on their amazing discovery, the
Wicked Witch, who lives in the cot-
tage, captures them. The remainder of
the story shows how the brave children
outwit and escape the clutches of the
evil Witch. The opera is divided into
three acts and features a libretto by
Humperdink's sister, Adelheid Wette.
In order to give a more musically
convincing portrayal of the characters,
the composer specifies using women
in the title roles. While the music is a
reflection of childhood innocence, it is
by no means facile in its demands on
the orchestra musicians or singers.
"While it is not Wagnerian in the
true sense," explained Katz, "it's still
not kids' singing, it's sort-of expanded
kids' singing - a real loud kind of
singing. The only part that is absolutely
Wagnerian, is the part of the Witch.
She has to sing high, low, loud, soft,
heroic, scary."
The roles of Hansel and Gretel are
double-cast because of the length of
their parts, while all other roles will be
single-cast for the four performances.
Jennifer Cobb and Monica Swartout-
Bebow will alternate in the role of
Hansel, while Gretel will be performed
by Joni Marie Crotty and Sarah
Asplund. Daniel Neer has the single
male part of the opera, as the Father,
Kimberly Haynes will play the Mother
and the Witch willbeplayed by Melody

Also featured will be a choir of 22
children from Ann Arbor's Dicken El-
ementary, under the direction ofLynda
Weston Berg. These fourth and fifth
graders will perform as Gingerbread
Children, and a smaller chorus of 14
will participate in the angel chorus.
Katz, relating an old showbiz ad-
age, said, "A lot of famous actors and
actresses have always said you don't
do shows with animals or kids, but I've
found that the little kids in this case
have been so enthusiastic and coopera-
tive. No matter how tired I am when I
get to arehearsal when the little kids are

involved, I feel better." And perhaps
reflecting his overall outlook for the
production, "(The kids) just energize
you, you can't afford to be boring when
they're around."
performed Thursday through
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2
p.m. at the Power Center. Tickets are
$16 and $12; student tickets are $6,
and are available at the Michigan #
League ticket office; tickets are also=
at the Power Center Box office one
hour prior to curtain on performance
dates. Call 764-0450.

r Qc
At bookstores eVerywhere


Joni Marie Crotty and Jennifer Cobb in a scene from "Hansel and Gretel."
'Bullets Over Broadway'
roves Allen hasn' t lost it

While earlier Woody Allen films
such as "Bananas" and "Annie Hall"
thrive on the almost mundane quirki-
ness of their characters, his newest
endeavor, "Bullets Over Broadway,",
is more like a comedy extravaganza,

Directed by Woody Allen
A 00 with John Cusack
andDianne Wiest.
with every element as integral and as
vibrant as the next.
' In one of the first scenes of the film,
ich is set in the Roaring '20s, play-
wright David Shayne (John Cusack)
and friends lounge outside a Green-
wich Village cafe, sipping wine and
enthusiastically discussing the value of
art. In the course of debate, David's
best friend and fellow writer, Sheldon
Flender (Rob Reiner), claims that he
would rescue the last copy of
Shakespeare's plays from a burning
lding before saving the life of a
Red one. David disagrees and sets
forth the theme of the film: the moral
dilemma of what makes an artist.

The backdrop for the philosophical
aspect ofthe film is an intricate storyline
anda superb script. Atfirst David seems
to have everything he could hope for,
or at least a backer for his newest script,
gangster Joe Viterelli (Nick Valenti).
Unfortunately, his financial support
comes attached with one cursed string;
David must cast Joe's girlfriend, Olive
Neal (Jennifer Tilly) in the significant
role of the psy-
chiatrist even
though she's so
bad that she can't
even remember
what comes after
So already
David has com- Wiest
promised his
morals. "I sold out. I'm a whore," he
screams to his girlfriend Ellen (Mary-
Louise Parker). Nevertheless, the show
goes on, but not without David digging
deeper and deeper into the depths of his
conscience. While the show's star,
Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest), seduces
him into changing her character in the
play and cheating on his girlfriend,
Olive's bodyguard Cheech (Chazz
Palminteri) comes to stand for the true
artist that David clearly is not.
Palminteri steals the show as the





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