Interview with Hansel & Gretel

Mezzo soprano Andrea Hill and soprano Lida Szkwarek will be playing the dynamic brother-sister duo in Hansel & Gretel. They recently sat down to chat about the music in this opera and their impressions of Edmonton Opera’s new production. 

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Andrea: What makes the music in this opera so compelling? 

Lida: The way Humperdinck has composed music for each character really gives you a feel for their personalities. For example, the children’s music is so pure and shows their sporadic ideas, whereas the parents’ music is more stable. Another compelling part happens in the woods, where Humperdinck builds so much tension and drama when the kids are lost, and then it unexpectedly bursts into this beautiful aria by the Sandman. I like those moments of contrast.  

Andrea: It goes back and forth, doesn’t it? Even with the Witch, her music doesn’t start out evil. It starts out lulling before it gets menacing, and with the Sandman you think it starts off evil but then it doesn’t go there at all. There’s a mix of light and dark in this opera, which keeps you on your toes. 

Lida: Is there a particular scene or piece of music you are excited to perform?  

Andrea: I think we both like the scene in the woods. From the moment we step in, through to the Dew Fairy and gingerbread house, there are so many colours in that music along the journey. The piece I like to sing in that is our little duet. It’s quite short, like most pieces in this opera, but it’s great.  

Andrea: What are you looking forward to in this new production of Hansel & Gretel?  

Lida: In this Hansel and Gretel, which director Rob Herriot has created along with the scenery designer Camellia Koo, there’s a bit of darkness – it won’t always be the folksy thing people expect. It’ll be beautiful in some moments, scary in others. 

Andrea: And it’s more authentic to the tale. This is a story where Hansel and Gretel are starving. The costumes (designed by Deanna Finnman) start in grayscale to show how the colour has seeped out along with our happiness but when we go into the forest, everything comes alive and becomes colourful. Our imaginations come to life and go into these bright colours. Allowing it to be dark and to show unhappy colours helps highlight the freedom, happiness, and release that comes at the end. 

Lida: I also love how the other characters (Sandman, Dew Fairy, Witch) have been built up to look bigger than us. It’ll give the illusion that they are huge and will help us feel smaller and more vulnerable on stage. 

Andrea: I’m also looking forward to my debut in Edmonton. This has been a very fun production to work on! 

Lida: I’m really excited to be back, the last time I was here singing Micaëla in Carmen. Everyone in Edmonton is so warm and welcoming!