You never know what surprises await Hansel and Gretel when they walk into their local popular coffeehouse and begin feasting. But it’s not gingerbread, and audiences will see why in the May 4 and 6 performances of “Hansel and Gretel” at Cal State San Bernardino.
Now, you may be thinking we’re crossing our fairytales with readings from a magazine article on the Best 20 Places for Java. To be sure, we’re not. This Timothy Burtonesque rendering of Engelbert Humperdinck’s (1854-1921) composition of the Brothers Grimm telling of an old German tale still possesses all the neat kid charm and sympathetic adult commentary on poverty, greed and commercialism.
This “Hansel and Gretel” uses spices other than ginger. It does this with its introduction of contemporary culture. Hansel and Gretel are tweens. Their father is a Swiffer salesman. There is Jell-O. And the popular local coffeehouse is called Hexenritt Coffee.
Stacey Fraser, director of opera theatre at CSUSB, directs the production and is the mastermind behind the quaint deviations.
“Opera has a tradition of being a high brow art form and I am trying to advocate that opera can indeed be accessible to the modern audience,” Fraser says. “It is all about telling the story within a setting that relates to those who are watching the production.”
The contemporary setting here is that Hansel and Gretel have frittered away time and neglected to clean the house, which their mother (not the gold standard of responsibility herself) has ordered them to do. In her anger, she accidently breaks the bowl of pudding meant to be their dinner, and so sends the two kids out to find and bring back something to eat before their father returns home.
After finding and eating some strawberries, Hansel and Gretel spot their favorite coffee shop, Hexenritt Coffee, complete with cake pops, frappuccinos, donuts, lattes, espresso and the scary witch, who runs it. She feeds the kids her treats, trying mainly to fatten up Hansel to make him a treat for her own coffee break, and Gretel is left to figuring out how to save her brother.
Aaron Molina, the CSUSB voice major who has performed in Fraser’s last two productions, “Cosi fan tutte” and “Impresario,” plays the
witch. Also starring are Danielle Perrault as Hansel and Natalie O’Donnell as Gretel. Both Perrault and O’Donnell appeared in “Impresario” as well.
The opera will be easy to follow. Even though it is being sung in its original German, producers are supplying subtitles.
“Hansel and Gretel” runs Friday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 6, at 2:30 p.m. Both shows are in the Performing Arts Building Recital Hall.
Tickets went on sale April 2.
For ticket prices and more information, call the CSUSB music department box office at (909) 537-7516 or go to music department website.
Parking is $5 per vehicle. A digital image from the production is available through the music department or the Office of Public Affairs, (909) 537-5007.