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Hansel und Gretel. (Canada: Calgary).

With a clever set designed by Terry Gunvordahl, effective, detailed stage direction by Elizabeth Bachman and generally fine singing from a well-chosen cast, Calgary Opera's production of Humperdinek's Hansel und Gretel played to near-full houses. Calgary moved to four performances for the year with this production, a welcome return to the level of activity of the early '80s and a sign of the generally warm support for opera in Canada's largest prairie city.

The production was particularly fortunate in its principals. Mariateresa Magisano (Gretel) has a clear-toned soprano that was girlish, but nonetheless carried easily to the back of the hail. She was well paired with Marianne Bindig (Hansel), who possesses an equally clear mezzo voice. Both singers were also effective dramatically, their actions admirably suited to the story and never fading into cloying kitsch.

Cheryl Hickman (the Mother and the Witch) was less over-the-top than some witches but still highly successful, her multifaceted evil qualities believable in context, her ringing soprano making its mark when necessary. It was a vocal luxury to have a baritone of Mark Pedrotti's calibre in the relatively minor part of the Father, but the production certainly benefited from his presence. Singing with his usual vocal warmth and vigor, Pedrotti drew from his part everything it contains and perhaps a bit more.

Brenda Dawe (the Dew Fairy and the Sandman) had some of the most beautiful tunes to sing and she made the most of them, her voice ringing and girlish. Tyrone Paterson, formerly the resident conductor of Calgary Opera, led the Calgary Philharmonic in a well-judged account of the score, if somewhat lacking in romantic warmth and melodic nuance. The entire production crew had evidently worked closely together, given integrated handling of the stage action, the sets and the subtle lighting effects (once again by the redoubtable Harry Frehner). The "real" world of the opening was conveyed by mildly modern costumes, while the scenes m the woods were treated in the usual fairy-tale fashion. However, the choristers' Saturday-morning sweatsuits in the final scene struck a jarring note that contrasted with their fine vocal contribution.
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Author:DeLong, Kenneth
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Words:350
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