Both San Francisco Opera and Opera San Jose are presenting Engelbert Humperdinck‘s beloved opera Hansel and Gretel right now – the retelling of the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm has been a mainstay (especially at this time of year) since its premiere in 1893. But it began as music for a puppet show the composer’s nieces were giving a few years before.
The popularity of Hansel and Gretel is such that it was the first full opera ever to be broadcast on radio (from Covent Garden in London in 1923) as well as the first broadcast from New York’s Metropolitan Opera (in December of 1931). The original libretto was by his sister Adelheid Wette, which made a few changes to the fairy tale, introducing a few characters, and had both parents surviving at the ending, unlike the version by the Brothers Grimm. The original production was conducted by Richard Strauss. It usually is sung in English, making it even more accessible to the younger opera-goers, with melodies that sound like German folk tunes, accompanied by a large orchestra. Opera San Jose’s production runs through the 1st of December, and the San Francisco Opera performances (in a co-production with Royal Opera, Covent Garden) run through December 7th.