KU News Release

April 21, 2011
Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, 785-864-2684

Fairy tale opera ‘Hänsel und Gretel’ to be staged at KU

LAWRENCE — University Theatre and the School of Music at the University of Kansas are staging Engelbert Humperdinck’s 19th century fairy tale opera “Hänsel und Gretel” with a modern twist.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. April 29 and May 3, 5 and 7 and at 2:30 p.m. May 1 and 8 at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

The libretto, written by Adelheid Wette, Humperdinck’s sister, is based on the Brothers Grimm story “Hansel and Gretel.” Humperdinck composed the work in 1891 and 1892, and it was first performed Dec. 23, 1893, in Weimar, Germany, conducted by Richard Strauss.

David Neely, associate professor of music, is musical director and will conduct a 47-piece orchestra composed of members of the KU Symphony Orchestra. Kathleen Smith Belcher, assistant professor of music, is stage director. Jerel Hilding, associate professor of dance, is choreographer. Debra Hedden, associate professor of music, is conductor of the 14-member Children’s Chorus. Scenic design is by Del Unruh, professor of theatre. Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre, is lighting designer, and Elizabeth “Biz” Grim, a 2010 scenography graduate now working in the Kansas City area, is costume designer.

The setting for the opera, which will be sung in German with English supertitles, has been moved from the German forest to the cornfields of Kansas.

“I am always interested in finding a way to make stories written, in some cases, hundreds of years ago resonate with an audience today,” Belcher said. “I asked myself how could I can make a well-known fairy tale sung in German click with a Kansas audience?”

Belcher said she wanted to keep the opera in the original language to best serve the educational needs of the graduate students performing the principal roles, but to move it to the volatile year of 1963 in Kansas.

“This was a time when people lived in fear of things they could not see and of people who had skin that was a different color than their own,” she said. “I am playing up such themes as how one cannot judge a book by its cover and that extreme poverty causes parents to make extreme decisions. These themes are just as powerful today as they were in 1963 or in 1893 when the piece was first performed. I thought it would be interesting to explore the fear of being lost in the great wide-open spaces of the Kansas sky while encased in a claustrophobic cornfield.”

The KU production features a cast of seven principals, an ensemble of four off-screen voices and nine dancers.

Reserved seat tickets for “Hansel and Gretel” are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982, and Lied Center, 864-ARTS, and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are $20 for the public, $10 for students and $19 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff. All major credit cards are accepted for phone and online orders.

Members of the cast for the KU opera production are listed below by hometown, level in school, major, parents’ names, high school and role.

From Vinland 66006
Sylvan O. Mitchell, daughter of Cotter and Fadra Mitchell, Children’s Chorus.

From Lawrence 66044
Ida Greenwell, freshman, environmental studies, daughter of Jocelyn Kitchen and Stan Greenwell, Lawrence High School, Ensemble of Birds.

Evan A. Jung, Broken Arrow Elementary School, son of Sandi Parker, Children’s Chorus.

Demi Renault, junior, voice, daughter of George and Val Renault, Lawrence Free State High School, Offstage Echo.

Christopher Smith, Cordley Elementary School, son of Claire Beier and Bryan Norwood Sr., Children’s Chorus.

Adelaide Wendel, Cordley Elementary School, daughter of Doug Wendel and Lisa Wolf-Wendel, Children’s Chorus.

From Lawrence 66046
Gwentessa Alfie, Broken Arrow Elementary School, daughter of Sebastian Alfie and Carmen Orth-Alfie, Children’s Chorus.

Jackson McCabe Maher, Cordley Elementary School, son of Michael Maher and Dacia McCabe, Children’s Chorus.

Zuzu Melchor, Cordley Elementary School, daughter of Antonio Melchor and Megan Greene, Children's Chorus.

Vera Petrovi?, Broken Arrow Elementary School, daughter of Uros and Zina Petrovi?, Children’s Chorus.

Kassidie Womack, Cordley Elementary School, daughter of Mary Womack, Children’s Chorus.

From Lawrence 66047
Ashley Dykes, Wakarusa Valley Elementary School, daughter of Richard and Dianna Dykes, Children’s Chorus.

From Lawrence 66049
Diane Camarda, Sunset Hill Elementary School, daughter of Dr. Karen and Dr. Kyle Camarda, Children’s Chorus.

Suzy Chun, Quail Run Elementary School, daughter of Peter and Soyoun Chun, Children’s Chorus.

Grace Eason, West Junior High School, daughter of Doug and Becky Eason, Children’s Chorus.

From Leawood 66209
Amanda Rixey, freshman, dance, daughter of Robert and Mary Rixey, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Olathe 66061
Morgan Couch, Prairie Trail Middle School, daughter of Dave and Carlene Couch, Children’s Chorus.

Scott Wichael, doctoral student, opera performance, son of Karen Wichael of Hays, Hays High School, the Witch.

From Prairie Village 66208
Emily Atchison, sophomore, dance and business, daughter of John and Charlotte Atchison, Shawnee Mission East High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Spring Hill 66083
Jen Silvey, sophomore, journalism, daughter of Gary and Lynn Silvey, Blue Valley High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Buhler 67522
Molly Zongker, junior, dance, daughter of Kirk and Kathy Zongker, Ensemble of Birds.

From Aurora 80016
Alexandra Sierra, freshman, math and dance, daughter of Mike and Sandy Sierra, Grandview High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Mendota Heights 55120
Maren Gray, freshman, dance, daughter of Dan and Lisa Gray, Cretin-Derham Hall High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Cedar Hill 63016
Kelly Elise Smith, graduate student, opera performance, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Smith, Rockwood Summit High School, Offstage Echo.

From Grandview 64030
Robert McNichols, Jr., doctoral student, opera performance, bachelor of music and master of music from University of Missouri-Kansas City, Father.

From Liberty 64068
Emily Bowen, freshman, dance, daughter of Sharron and Ken Bowen, Liberty High School, Ensemble of Birds.

From Kalispell 59901
Kristian N. Bucy, graduate student, opera performance, daughter of Kevin and Peggy Bucy, Flathead High School, Mother.

From Lincoln 68512
Molly Jones, freshman, dance and physical therapy, daughter of Jeff and Melissa Jones, Lincoln Southwest High School and North Carolina School of the Arts, Ensemble of Birds.

From Santa Fe 87506
Annalize Sussman, graduate student, voice, daughter of Dr. Jim and Susan Sussman, Los Alamos High School, Hänsel.

From Broken Arrow 74014
Ashley Benes, graduate student, opera performance, daughter of Mark and Mary Benes, Broken Arrow High School, Dew Fairy and Offstage Echo.

From Draper 84020
Natalie Easter, graduate student, opera performance, daughter of Fred and Tricia Easter, West High School, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sandman and Offstage Echo.

Etta Fung, graduate student, opera performance, daughter of Michael and Rena Fung, Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, Gretel.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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