Sunday, February 4, 2007

A successful run

We just finished our run of Hansel and Gretel today. Here is what the Las Cruces Sun News had to say yesterday:

A charming end to a storybook season
By Amanda L. Husson/Sun-News reporter

Doña Ana Lyric Opera closes its "Storybook Season" with the Engelbert Humperdinck's family classic, "Hänsel und Gretel." The opera opens tonight and continues through Sunday at New Mexico State University's Music Center Recital Hall.

Musical director Geraldine Brink, newly appointed choral director at Las Cruces High School, said the lush, Wagnerian-style orchestration really enhances the familiar story, initially told by the Grimm Brothers and reworked by Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette.

"There are a couple of familiar German folk tunes that Humperdinck used that people might recognize," Brink said.

Stage director Philip Christiansen said this show offers certain challenges for the audience: "Having two different young ladies performing a boy role and a tenor singing the female witch is part of the operatic tradition, but will require the audience to use their imagination."

The performances will be in the original German language with English and Spanish supertitles, but Christiansen said the action of the familiar story will be easy to follow, even for audience members who don't speak German.

He said performing operas in the language in which they were written is important for his students.

"One of our goals is to prepare students for the real world of performing," Christiansen said. "We're making them better prepared, both for graduate school and a professional career, if they can perform in different languages."

Bethania Baray will sing Gretel each performance while Sophia Sesha Grieb (Friday and Sunday) and Karline Valentine (Saturday) will split performances as Hänsel. Also contributing to this productions are veterans of DALO Magdalena Garcia, Megan Chavez and Mary-Catherine Roybal with newcomers Steven Huber, Daniel Sandino-Molloy and Ruth Seiler. This production will also feature Orlando-Antonio Jiménez as the Hexe (Witch) and performances by the Doña Ana Youth Choir.

Almost an instant classic, "Hänsel und Gretel" opened in 1893 with Richard Strauss at the podium. Within a year, the opera had been performed in more than fifty German theaters. It has been translated into fifteen languages and has received performances in such places as South Africa, China, and Tunisia. The popularity of "Hänsel und Gretel" has meant it has been associated with many firsts in operatic lore. In 1923, it became the first complete performance broadcast from any opera house in Europe (London's Covent Garden). On Christmas Day, 1931, The Metropolitan Opera initiated its weekly live radio performance with a performance of Humperdinck's most famous piece.

Amanda L. Husson can be reached at

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