Hansel & Gretel: Popup Opera

The classic fairy tale has been brought to life at the V&A Museum of Childhood by Popup Opera in Engelbert Humperdinck’s fantastic opera. 

Before I start on the opera itself, a brief précis of the plot (no spoilers) Hansel and Gretel get chased out of their house by their mother for not doing enough chores. The father comes home drunk but successful in his work and, after finding out what happened with the children tells her about the evil witch in the forest and they go after the children. The children get lost in the forest and sleep and the next day come upon a house made of sweets…

Popup Opera couldn’t have picked a more perfect venue than the Childhood Museum for this opera. As one member of the company said before it began when explaining why the exhibits in the museum which surrounded the stage and seating were still illuminated: ‘it’s like a forest made of a child’s imagination.’

The opera is performed in the original German with very accessible, modern surtitles which made the whole experience just that little bit more joyful. The background of the surtitles would change depending on the Act, for instance when the children were at the candy house the border of the surtitles were different sweets. The language used also made the audience laugh a lot ‘Hocus Pocus Fakus Newsus, Brexitus’ for instance, ‘Are you tripping? This house is obviously a trap’ another which I loved. 

The performances were fantastic across the board. The two leads: Sofia Larsson as Gretel and Polly Leech as Hansel were not just stunning singers but their acting really added a dimension. Leech’s facial expressions and cheeky demeanour were spot-on as was Larsson’s innocent and inquisitive Gretel. Alison Mainwaring as the Mother and Witch brought real depth to the Mother, her singing and acting in the first Act in particular was a real highlight. Both James Harrison as the Father and Rebecca Moon as the Sandman and Dewfairy were also excellent. 

I loved this production of Hansel and Gretel, the acting, singing, set design and surtitles united together in to a funny, moving and joyful opera which the entire family could enjoy, the bonus of it being put on at the Museum of Childhood just made it that little bit more special. To my shame this was my first Popup Opera, it definitely won’t be my last. 


Photos credit Robert Workman 

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