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Humperdinck – Hansel und Gretel

Hansel – Catherine Hopper

Gretel – Joana Seara

Mother / Witch – Anne Mason

Father – Donald Maxwell

Sandman – Katherine Allen

Dew Fairy – Pippa Goss

New London Children’s Choir


Conductor – Peter Selwyn
Director – Stephen Barlow
Designer – Paul Edwards
Choreographer – David Greenall
Lighting – Peter Mumfo


Opera Holland Park 17 June 2009


Hansel und Gretel is often thought of as a Christmas entertainment, but it makes no sense for children to be sent out into the forest to gather berries in mid-winter and it was perfectly placed in Holland Park’s summer season.  Indeed with a spooky Arthur Rackham like backdrop, a fair number of song birds flying happily across the auditorium (presumably the crumbs on the picnic tables prove enticing), and the shadows and darkness creeping in eerily as the evening progressed, the story very much came to life before our eyes.


Stephen Barlow’s production introduced a war time setting; as good an explanation as any for the shortage of food in the household and despair at the loss of a jug of milk, but the Sandman dressed as a sapper and Dew Fairy as a nurse seemed somewhat less plausible.  The brightly coloured Battenberg cake house and lime fondant coated witch were real winners, and the VE Day ending was a complete success.


As the two children, Catherine Hopper and Joana Seara both looked and moved with total authenticity,  a confident and bouncy young boy with his excitable, but timid younger sister.  A delight to watch and their singing was as pleasing on the ear,  voices blending to perfection in the evening prayer.


Another bonus was having Donald Maxwell and Anne Mason as the parents, with voices of Wagnerian proportion to do full justice to Humperdinck’s lavish score. 


The New London Children’s Choir was impeccably drilled, some hopping about like birds, others in party costumes for the dream scene.


Overall this was an evening to savour and dream about through the coming winter and until the OHP season comes round again.


Serena Fenwick


Photo credit Fritz Curzon