"Deliciously witty with an underlying subtext of modern consumerism" is how Glyndebourne's blurb describes Laurent Pelly's 2008 production of Hansel and Gretel, now on its first revival. Pelly has re-imagined Humperdinck's masterpiece as a Brechtian fable about the consequences of being poor and hungry. Given that Glyndebourne is as much about eating as about song, this is a production that first and foremost puts two fingers up at its affluent audience.
Hansel and Gretel (Alice Coote and Lydia Teuscher) have the survival instincts of kids from a cardboard city. The forest, eerily designed by Barbara de Limburg Stirum, is awash with picnic detritus, while the dream sequence is populated by odious rich kids eating burgers. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke's slovenly Witch, meanwhile, runs a supermarket where everything is free and which sprouts terrifying factory chimneys whenever child-baking is imminent. But the lost children, when released, are found to be obese, and you can't help feeling that Pelly has gone a step too far.
Musically, however, it's little short of miraculous. Coote and Teuscher are glorious vocally and dramatically. The evening's real hero, though, is conductor Robin Ticciati, immaculate in his pacing, and breathtaking in his negotiation of the balance between Wagnerian disturbance and folk-based magic.
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