Review by Robert Beale
WHO would have thought that Engelbert Humperdinck would write an opera? But of course the real Humperdinck (born 1854) could and did – in fact he’s known for Hansel And Gretel more than anything else. Forget the 1960s crooner.
It’s a perfect piece for Clonter Opera, the Cheshirefarm that grows some of the best young singers of today into the accomplished lyric artists of tomorrow, to present. All you need to cast is seven roles, and most of those are ideal for the youthful.
It was a notable success when Clonter last performed it, in 1998, and this time a delightful experience, too. Then they used a reduction of the lavish orchestral score to just piano, viola, cello, clarinet and horn, which worked amazingly well.
Now musical director Clive Timms had 16 instrumentalists in the unshielded pit (mostly Royal Northern College of Music trained), who played well but at times overwhelmed the voices. Those included a Gretel –Raphaela Papadakis – and Hansel – Marta Fontanals-Simmons – who I think will go on to make a real impression. Both have rich, limpid tone through their range and both acted as if they were real youngsters.
Cast – Ben McAteer (Father), Magdalena Molendowska (Mother), Elizabeth Desbruslais (Sandman) and Elinor Rolfe Johson (Dew Fairy) – the last two doubling as enchanted children freed in the end – were all performers of imagination and singers of quality, andGuildhall-trained. The Witch, though, was Helen Anne Gregory, from the RNCM, who shone among them as a lurid, Coronation Street style harridan.
I think we all loved the style of Martin Lloyd-Evans’ production, which told the story as Roald Dahl might have. The thoroughly modern children are enticed by goodies such as ghetto-blaster and skateboard, and their dream is of happy family life in contrast to the deprivation of their real one.
Manchester Theatre Awards Press Review by Philip Radcliffe
Inspired set and costume design by Eleanor Wdowski and lighting by Alexandra Stafford brought the concept instantly alive, and – knowing just how small budgets for such things have to be these days – I would rate their part in this production as totally outstanding.
Father – Ben McAteer
Mother – Magdalena Molendowska
Hansel – Marta Fontanals-Simmons
Gretel – Raphaela Papadakis
Sandman – Elizabeth Desbruslais
Dew Fairy – Elinor Rolfe Johnson
Witch – Helen Anne Gregory
Musical Director & Conductor – Clive Timms
Director – Martin Lloyd-Evans
Set & Costume Designer – Eleanor Wdowski
Lighting Designer – Alexandra Stafford
Assistant Musical Director – Robin Humphreys
Coach – Martyn Parkes
Violin 1 – Gemma Bass
Violin 2 – Alexandra Dunn
Viola – Cheryl Law
Cello – Elinor Gow
Double Bass – Sian Holland
Flute – Jennifer George
Oboe – Bethan Roberts
Clarinet 1 – Sarah Masters
Clarinet 2 – Marianne Rawles
Bassoon – Linton Stephens
Horn 1 – Mathew Crossley
Horn 2 – Abigail Sanders
Trumpet – Graham South
Trombone – Simon Powell
Timpani/Percussion – Andrea Vogler
Keyboard – Robin Humphreys