A few organizations have wisely concentrated their events over the slow summer season, giving fans and fellow musicians a better chance to attend. One of these, the Delaware Valley Opera Company (DVOC), kicked off their summer festival this week with Engelbert Humperdinck's opera "Hansel and Gretel". As of 2011, the DVOC calls the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Philadelphia its home, and a beautiful home it is! The theater is new, attractive, and comfortable; though the AC was set at "movie theater ice box" so a sweater is advised.
Hansel and Gretel is a familiar Grimm brothers fairy tale and the opera was sung in English so it was unusually accessible. The lyrical music helped this broad appeal even further. The cast was comprised almost entirely of females. Esther Oh, Gretel, brought a child like spirit and wonder to her role and Terry D'Andrea's over the top witch was just plain fun. Music director, Tim Ribchester, seamlessly bounced from 4 hand piano accompaniment to directing while keeping the challenging timing on cue. One of the most difficult and most effective moments was when echos were created by singers positioned in the balcony. Equally impressive were the parts that included physically challenging movement, like dance, while singing. Pop stars appear to do this all the time, but they are often helped with pre-recorded material, auto-tune, and other techno-wizardry. With no amplification of any form, there would be no chance of any fake singing during this performance.
The Gingerbread Children must have been very proud to take part in an opera with mostly adult performers, and they did a wonderful job. There's still one more chance to see the opera on Saturday and it's priced so the whole family can go at a modest cost.
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