Review: Hänsel und Gretel reopens Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden

"It had a certain charm and some fatal flaws."

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Hansel und Gretel Staatsoper unter den Linden
‘Fantasy-grunge’: Katrin Wundsam and Elsa Dreisig as Hänsel and Gretel at the reopened Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Children, hardly a revelation, are not easy to please at the opera. A small boy spotted at Covent Garden for Semiramide – four hours of epic Rossini tragedy – must have been glad of the toy dog he thought to bring. His seat was empty by the interval. Few operas breach the unknowable gap between youthful fun and adult reward. Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel (1893), based on a Grimm brothers story and full of darkness and delight, heads the list. Humperdinck’s fairytale opera found itself opening the new season at Berlin’s rebuilt Staatsoper Unter den Linden, closed from 2010 until two months ago but only now in full operation, four years late and at a cost of €400m.

Not-so-glitzy reopening at Staatsoper unter den Linden

A few dozen white and gold balloons tied to the exterior columns of this once imperial neoclassical building – “neo” a lot things; variously damaged and bombed, it was imitatively rebuilt in 1955 during the GDR period – felt about right. The message was simple: business as usual, at last. A more glitzy launch might have been expected, with Daniel Barenboim, the company’s music director, at the helm rather than in the audience. Other potential openers fell by the wayside as the building stayed shut and the company remained in its temporary home (the Schiller theatre).

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Source: Opera News from the UK Guardian