Hansel and Gretel
CHAN 3143
The Sunday Times
‘Humperdinck’s operatic “fairy tale” positively glows in the benign hands of the 81-year-old Mackerras, committing his first Hansel and Gretel to disc... The beauty of the Philharmonia’s playing, vividly evoking the eerie natural world of the wood, the rollicking horror of the witch's ride and the prayerful serenity of the children’s dream-pantomime of guardian angels, is the outstanding feature of this delightful new set, but the cast has been well chosen, too... Jennifer Larmore’s swaggering Hansel is perfectly matched with Rebecca Evans’s radiant and unusually voluptuous Gretel... The opera is a little miracle, and this new English version – David Pountney’s translation – deserves to attract new generations of admirers.'
Märchenspiel (fairy tale) in three acts
Libretto by Adelheid Wette
after a fairy-tale by the Brothers Grimm
English translation by David Pountney
The Cast
Jennifer Larmore, mezzo-soprano - Hansel
Rebecca Evans, soprano - Gretel
Rosalind Plowright, mezzo-soprano (PMF Scholar)
- Gertrude
Robert Hayward, baritone - Peter
Jane Henschel, mezzo-soprano - The Witch
Sarah Tynan, soprano - The Dew Fairy
Diana Montague, mezzo soprano - The Sandman
Sarah Coppen, The Cuckoo
New London Children's Choir
Philharmonia Orchestra
Sir Charles Mackerras - conductor
Recorded in Blackheath Halls, London
22-27 November 2006
Producer - Brian Couzens
Sound engineer - Ralph Couzens
Assistant engineer - Jonathan Cooper
‘When a perfectly serviceable version of Hansel and Gretel in English already exists on CD, it is generous as well as bold for the Peter Moores Foundation to sponsor this new one. In every way it replaces the old... the digital recording is clear and beautifully separated yet with an agreeable bloom on voices and instruments... the David Pountney translation is used, fresher and more idiomatic (than the EMI version), helping the starry cast of soloists, led by Jennifer Larmore and Rebecca Evans, both superb in the title-roles, nicely contrasted while blending well together.

There is strong casting, too, for the Witch, with Jane Henschel refusing to caricature the role in "funny-voice" singing; Rosalind Plowright, gravitating down to mature mezzo, as the Mother, and Robert Hayward as the Father, don't guy their characterisations, either; while there are good contrasts between the bright Dew Fairy of Sarah Tynan and the warm Sandman of Diana Montague. All told, this set will clearly stand the test of time as an English version, rivalling even the best of versions in the original German. The exhilaration of the final scene in particular is irresistible, with Mackerras drawing a genuinely Viennese-sounding lilt in the waltz rhythms of the "Witch is dead" duet, the destruction of the Witch's House powerfully conveyed and the revival of the gingerbread children movingly done. The fresh young voices of the New London Children's Choir are beautifully caught.’
The Daily Telegraph
'It is more or less a foregone conclusion that a recording of Hansel and Gretel conducted by Charles Mackerras will be a triumph, and this latest in Chandos's Opera in English series proves this to be the case... (The) daybreak scene is just one example of the wonderful playing that Mackerras draws from the Philharmonia, while those harmonic twists that make Humperdinck's music so emotionally taut catch you in the gut with their timing on each occasion... Jennifer Larmor's laddish Hansel makes a good foil for Rebecca Evans's purer-voiced Gretel... Jane Henschel puts in a star performance as the Witch, not over-playing the characterisation in her use of vocal tone-colour, as some do, yet obviously enjoying the way such lines as "My name's Rosina Lickspittle" go from sweetness and light to malevolence in the twinkling of a barline. Rosalind Plowright's Mother and Robert Hayward's Father make solid impressions in the first act, and there are consummate cameos for the Sandman (Diana Montague) and Dew Fairy (Sarah Tynan). Last but not least, the New London Children's Choir movingly cap the performance as the revived gingerbread children.'