Opera Connecticut congratulates the cast and crew of Hänsel and Gretel
GINGERBREAD & ALL THAT IS NICE
Special to Town Times by LARRY KELLUM
On November 4th, Opera Connecticut celebrated its 25th Anniversary by
presenting the 1893 Brothers Grimm fairy tale opera "Hansel and
Gretel" ( in English) by Engelbert Humperdinck at University of Saint
Joseph. For those who like gingerbread and sugary treats, this was the
perfect offering sandwiched between such candy-oriented holidays as
Halloween and Christmas.
In the title roles, one couldn't ask for a more adorable pair of
siblings, with excellent comic timing, than the cherry-tinted mezzo
of Evanna Lai as Hansel and 2016 American Opera Idol winner Nadia
Aguilar as his sister. Were they singing Mozart, a bit more volume
would have been welcome, but Gretel, especially, is almost impossible
like Salome, Butterfly & Juliette -- an adolescent that must slice
through a heavy, massive, swirling orchestration -- here magnificently
conducted by Doris Lang Kosloff and her Hartford Symphony musicians.
As their parents, Michelle Murray Fiertek (Gertrude) was as shrewish
as she needed to be dramatically. Robert Barefield's resonant baritone
made a meal out of Peter.
However, any "Hansel" stands or falls by its cannibalistic Witch, a
juicy but short role that throughout history has been sung by retired
Brunhildes, retired Azucenas....and, yes, by character tenors, who
ultimately make the strongest impact in drag. As predicted,celebrity
tenor Anthony Laciura, a veteran of over 800 performances at the
Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere, stole the show and turned the
evening into a real gala event.