History of Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”
Brief biography of the Grimm brothers
The Grimm brothers refer to Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. Jacob Ludwig was born on January 4 1785 while Wilhelm Carl was born on February 24 1786. These brothers were born in Hanau, Hesse-Kassel (now Germany). According to Özünel (2011, 60), the two brothers and their families spent their early years in Hanau town before moving to Steinau. Their parents were Mr. Phillipp Wilhelm Grimm, and their mother was Dorothea Grimm.
The Grimm brothers were born in a family of nine siblings. According to Özünel (2011, p. 60), their siblings included Friedrich Hermann Georg Grimm (1783-1784), Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863), Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859), Carl Friedrich Grimm (1787-1852), Ferdinand Philipp Grimm (1788-1844), Ludwig Emil Grimm (1790-1863), Friedrich Grimm (1791-1792), Charlotte (Lotte) Amalie Hassenpflug, neé Grimm (1793-1833), and Georg Eduard Grimm (1794-1795).
Their father was a lawyer by profession. However, Jacob Ludwig did not have a wide experience with his father since he passed on when Jacob was only 11. The two brothers were academics giants of Germany in their era. They carried out many cultural researches, thus being honored as cultural gurus in Germany. Out of their expansive contribution in folktales, they were severally honored as linguists.
Their linguistic work is still read across the world. Both Jacob and Wilhelm are also great contributors in lexicography and are honored as lexicographers. Their published folktales made them prominent authors of books. Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm are among the best renowned story tellers in Germany. Their folktales are in German for example folktales like, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Snow white, The Frog prince, and Rapunzel among others.
Smith (2013,105) asserts that, when their father, Mr. Philip Wilhelm died, he left the family in social poverty. The two boys would later follow his example and be enrolled to study law at the University of Marburg. Jacob Ludwig enrolled at Marburg in 1802 while Wilhelm Carl enrolled in the same university in 1803.
After two years, Jacob was in a position to go away from the university under the stewardship of one of his tutors to study medieval official documents. In 1806, the brothers would be impressed and influenced by the folk collections of Clemens Brentano and Archim von Arnim among others. They would then begin to collect German folk tales.
It was out of the inspiration of Friedrich von Savigny who was a judge and a lover of the past at the University of Marburg that the two brothers got attracted to Germanic lessons together with philology. Due to their commitment and interest in the field of Philology, the Grimm brothers are regarded as pioneers of philology in Germany. Their publications and research in German folktales have spurred a lot of interest from various quotas hence promoting national allegiance and loyalty in many Germans.
Jacob and Wilhelm spent their whole lives collecting folktales, editing, and publishing it. Later on, Wilhelm would fall so sick that he would be completely decapitated for several years. During these years, Wilhelm would not continue collecting folks. Hence, his career went dormant for a period. However, he would eventually recover and resume employment in 1814 as an escritoire.
It was during his tenure as a secretary at the Elector’s library that Wilhelm gained more experience and interest in working with literary work. Elector’s library exposed him to different perspectives that people take in life hence expanding his scope of ideas on issues. From the divergent views that people would pose in writing, music or even dace, Wilhelm would learn the trends in the society and the mentality of the people living in such a region.
Jacob would have preceded Wilhelm at the library as an employee in 1808 when he took active employment to enable him to support his younger brothers and sister upon his mother’s death and upon his return home. Poverty was still a problem in the family since the death of their father who was until the point of his death the breadwinner of the family.
The death of their mother was a second blow that would even hit these brothers harder. Those in employment were to provide for their siblings who were at that point orphans. Cavendish (2012, 8) observes that the first edition of their collection of folk tales, Kinder und Hausmarchen (Children and Household Tales) was published in 1812, which had been described as an ‘unpretentious book’.
Every concept and episode in the book flows. There are few or no assumptions at all from the way the authors present the tales. The authors are able to marry the occurrences in the tales with a completely natural environment that makes readers even more interested to read the book. The books seem to be seamless in its record of events hence more natural.
In fact, the book is highly regarded by readers when compared to others. The book had 86 tales. In 1814, the second volume of this book was published, adding 70 books to the first 86 and making minor editorial and at times contextual changes to the first edition. Korneeva (2012, 281) argue that among these changes is the different reference to Hansel and Gretel’s mother as ‘the woman’ and ‘the step mother’ in subsequent editions.
Beyond this second publication would come six additional additions, eventually culminating in a total of 200 folk tales and ten (10) children’s legends. Wilhelm Grimm is personally responsible for most of the changes that were made to the original publications. Notably, this book is one of the best-known and most influential books ever written in the German language.
Smith (2013, 105) asserts that, as Jacob and Wilhelm worked in the library, which was paying them little amount of money, they were able to publish various literary work and to research on folktales. It was also during this period that they published folktales on Irish and Danish work. In addition, they published various mythologies from Norse.
Working in the library gave them adequate time to edit their German folktales to the best quality and taste. At this point, their work was acknowledged where they were both awarded doctorate degrees from various academic institutions in Marburg. In addition, universities in Berlin and Wroclaw also honored them for their contribution to literature work in the world.
Honorary degrees were a great source of inspiration to the Grimm brothers and their efforts in literature had moved them from a discriminated people to great academic giants. Their works would be read across Germany and other nations with utter disregard of their social status. Wilhelm Grimm would later marry Henrietta Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild in 1825 and this is significant because apparently, Dorothea Wild contributed the children’s verse answer to the witch in the Hansel and Gretel fairytale: The wind, the wind, / The heavenly child.
Although this phrase sounds very ordinary and not in the slightest bit literary in English, it was significant in the metamorphosis of the tale of Hansel and Gretel primarily because it rhymes in German: Der Wind, der Wind, / Das himmlische Kind. This allegation of Dorothea’s involvement is based on Grimm’s notes on his personal copy of the first published edition (1812) of Hansel and Gretel.
Cavendish (2012, 8) observes that the translator D. L. Ashliman indicates that there is a possibility of the Grimm Brothers having heard the entire Hansel and Gretel tale in the Wild family home. Dorothea and her family are believed to be a major and a significant source of stories and folk tales that would make up the sum total of fairy ad folk tales in the brothers Grimm’s books.
Between 1829 and 1830, the Brothers Grimm would resign from their librarian jobs at Kassel and accept appointments as professors and librarians at the University of Gottingen instead. Their resignation at Kassel library was occasioned by their disappointment by the library administration in the appointment of Chief librarian.
Although the two brothers had wide experience and academic background, they were both overlooked and another employee was appointed to their dismay. This made them to resolve to quit their jobs from the library. According to Özünel (2011, 60), the very first edition of Hansel and Gretel was published in 1812. Subsequently, the tale was edited, with some original qualities and components being dispensed with in whole or in part.
As noted above, Wilhelm Grimm made most of the revisions to the original text and these seem to be oriented towards depicting Hansel and Gretel’s father as being weak and feeble in the face of the apparently formidable and evil woman in his life. An example of such an amendment is the concept of the mother in the first edition that becomes the stepmother in subsequent editions.
Korneeva (2012, 281) observes that the final edition of this tale was published in 1857. In the first edition, the evil woman is referred to as the children’s mother. However, in the 1840 version of the publication, which was the fourth edition, she is referred to as the “step mother”, which is the introduction of the term “step mother”, which is used severally throughout the text.
Korneeva (2012, 281) affirms that, in the final edition (1857), there are two references to her as the mother, one as the step mother and more than a dozen references as “the woman.” Literary debate is ongoing regarding this change in the author’s attitude towards women especially in view of the fact that a writer’s tone and content are usually a portrayal of his or her personal life and experiences. The question raised now, therefore, is whether Wilhelm was such a man as the father in the tale, concerning his matrimonial home.
Comparison with similar literary works
There have been several versions of fairy tales, which have their origin in the middle ages especially the years between 1315 and 1321. During this period, there was a great famine in the Baltic region. This famine made people behave in cannibalistic way. People could abandon their children in order to fight for their lives only or worse still feed on these children.
It is from this foundation that the tale of Hansel and Gretel is derived. Various other tales were also crafted on similar grounds. The previous adaptations of fictional accounts that are similar to Hansel and Gretel have a French version. One such example is the tale by Charles Perrault, Le petit Poucet (1697) because the first scenes unfold depicting children who have been abandoned by their parents in the woods.
Another tale came out in 1698 when a certain Madame d’Aulnoy authored the tale: Finette Cendron, which was published in one of her publication, Les Contes nouveaux, ou les fetes a la Mode. In that tale, there are three princesses. Their parents abandon them in the woods. They also find their way back home by leaving trails of items behind but the third time, the peas that they sprinkle on the path as pecked on by pigeons and they end up getting lost in the woods, only to land in a giant’s home.
In the end, the heroine, Finetta, shoves the giant into his own oven and they make a successful heroic comeback into society. In a similar tale “Clever Cinders”, the characters are different but the development of the tale is the same. In this story, the giant that plans to eat the children is incinerated by heroin and children find their way out. As the tale reveals, children use heroine to incinerate their enemy-giant.
Heroine enables them to shovel the giant into the furnace in an oven. This is similar to what happened in the Hansel and Gretel. In Hansel and Gretel, the girl tricks the ogre that she does not understand the instructions provoking the ogre to demonstrate what she mean and end up in the furnace herself. In both stories, the ogres die in fire, which seems to be the worst death that a living creature can experience.
The plans of the ogres to kill their victims in a bid to eat them turn around them and they become the victims. It is also common in the stories that the aim of the ogres in all these stories is to harm the children. However, it is also easy to realize that, in all the stories, the children turns to be clever than their step parents who abandons them and the ogres.
For example, in one of the Russian fictional accounts , a wicked stepmother who is similarly married to a woodcutter, does not love her stepdaughter. Thus, she drives her to the jungle in a bid to get light from another place where mother’s relative stays. However, the said mother’s sister turns to be an ogre by the name baba yaga. Baba Yaga is a cannibal who plans on how to eat the young girl.
In a similar way like in other folk tales the girl end up tricking the ogre to death and she escapes from its hands without a scathe. It is also interesting to note that the when the ogre dies the evil stepmothers also dies. Several analysis have pointed out that since the ogre’s death seems connected to the death of the evil step mothers, there is a likely hood that the evil step mothers and the ogre are one and the same thing; they are all manifestations of evil.
Although the folktales differ based on the kinds of food that the ogres eat and the food that the ogre uses to trap the children, the fact is that in all the folk tales food is highly depicted. For example, the stepmothers would send the children into the forest in order to avoid competition for food, which is not enough in the family. Children are hated and depicted as the sacrificial lambs for the stepmothers.
In the forest, the ogre feed the children in candy so that they become fatty and then she eats them. The folk tales are overly occupied with eating. Such a scenario also happens in the French folk tale , “The Lost Children.” Children are disposed off in the forest so that parents cannot starve in competition for food. However, the children turn to be wiser than their enemies and they emerge victorious. The stories depict that children are wiser that ogres and evil people.
Humperdinck’s Opera “Hansel and Gretel”
The opera “Hansel and Gretel” was composed in the nineteenth century by Engelbert Humperdinck. According to the composer, Hansel and Gretel Opera is a fairly tale opera. Initially, the Hansel and Gretel opera had been written by Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wett. Wett had written the opera basing it on the fairy tale , “Hansel and Gretel”, which was written by the Grimm brothers whose history has been given in the preceding section.
Upon his return to his hometown in 1887, his younger sister, Adelheid Wett requested him to compose four folk songs to accompany the play she had written for her children to perform on Christmas based on Brothers Grimm’s tale, Hansel and Gretel. This he did, and the end product was so beautiful that they decided (Adelheid and Engelbert) to go the full hog and produce a complete opera piece.
The opera was composed as a full package after the author, Engelbert Humperdinck, had revised the original composition by his sister. The end result was a full-scale opera that was highly appraised. Engelbert began and composed the Hansel and Gretel opera while in Frankfurt between 1891 and 1892. It is from Frankfurt that the opera Hansel and Gretel spread to other parts of Germany and the world at large.
Its musical composition, tone, and taste appealed to much audience hence it was able to gain popularity within a short span of time. The composer Richard Strauss who was in charge of conducting the premiere of the opera “Hansel and Gretel” commented that it was a, “…masterpiece of the highest quality…all of it original, new, and so authentically German” (Özünel 2011, 60) In its first year, it was performed in more than 50 theatres in Germany.
This was a clear indication of the liking of the opera by the Germans themselves. It is out of the liking of this opera in Germany that it also gained popularity in Europe and other parts of the world. Richard Strauss who conducted the initial performance of the opera in Weimar rated the opera as his best. Since the opera was meant for Wett’s children and specifically for Christmas, it had to be the best of her several compositions.
The overpowering excitement that the audience gets after watching the opera is what Wett meant to make her children happy during Christmas. Perhaps it is the reason for the popularity of the opera Hansel and Gretel. Over the next two decades, this opera would be translated into more than 20 languages. After its composition and publication, the opera gained popularity within no time.
Various theatres and theater arts companies performed the opera soon after its production. The initial performance of the opera Hansel and Gretel was in 1893, which was led by Richard Strauss. In 1894, the opera was performed again under the leadership of Gustav Mahler during the Hamburg premier. The opera was also performed in other countries outside Germany in the same year.
For example, Hansel and Gretel was performed in Basel in Switzerland in 1894. In the same year, it was performed at Daly’s theatre in London, England. In the following year, 1895, the opera was performed in New York, the United States of America. Within a span of two years after its first performance, the opera had gained too much fame to gain acceptance across the world.
In fact, it had been marketed to most of the best art theaters in the world. According to Rubini (2006, 89), the opera spread to Australia in 1907 and was performed at Princess Theatre in Melbourne. The princess’s theatre was one of the most popular theatres in Melbourne, Australia at that time and could only schedule for the performance of the best selling operas in the country and across the world.
The opera Hansel and Gretel has been translated to English language for the English-speaking consumers. The initial translation of the opera from German to English was done by Constance Bache. Bache has enabled the English speakers to access the opera in their own standardized language.
However, Norman Kelly is the person that translated the opera Hansel and Gretel in the United States. The opera has also been translated by David Poultney for shows in English national opera. Hansel and Gretel has hence gained popularity in German-speaking, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and many other countries of the world.
The opera Hansel and Gretel was recorded as an audio package in Manchester, England in 1929. The opera was recorded for children’s choir and was to be performed as evening benediction. Recording was done in Columbia records. The audio package won the Gold Disc honor in 1989 from EMI. The opera was also staged and recorded by Berliner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Ochestrer, which was under the directions of Artur Rother and Mozartchor.
The recording was done in a bid to campaign against the violation of children rights. The theme of the recording was, “preventing children from being shoved into the oven by wicked witch” (Özünel 2011, 60). It is worth noting that the opera was recorded at a time when Germany was experiencing children rights violation in many parts. The group target was to discourage acts of violence to German children.
In 1947, the Hansel and Gretel was recorded in English by a group known as Metropolitan opera. The recording was listed in the albums Nadine Cornner and Rise Stevens. This recording was done in English language. Audio recording was taken a notch higher in 1953 when the opera Hansel and Gretel was sung by Elisabeth Grummer and Eliasabeth Schwarzkopf under the leadership of Herbert Karajan.
This recording has been rated as the recording of the century by EMI. It has since been put in Compact Discs (CDs) and Digital versatile Discs (DVDs). According to (Rubini 2006, 89), the opera was also recorded on Eurodisc by Kurt Eichhorn in conjunction with Munich radio orchestra. In this recording, Helen Donath sung as Gretel and Anna Moffo sung as Hansel.
In 1978, a studio recording was done by Sir Georg Solti in conjunction with Vienna Philharmonic. In the sound tracking process, Brigitte Fassbaender sung Hansel while Gretel represented Lucia Popp. Later on in 1978, Staatskapelle Dresden in conjunction with Colin Davis recorded the Hansel and Gretel for Philips classics. In this recording, Ann Murray and Edita Gruberneth played the role of the two children namely Hansel and Gretel.
In the performance, Gwyneth Jones represented Gertrude. The play was recorded and played on Philips Classic on several occasions. The Hansel and Gretel opera was also recorded in 2007 as an audio package in English language. This recording was done by Philharmonia Ochestra under the leadership of Charles mackerras.
This recording was done purposely to provide a new lease to Opera in English series, which was played on Chandos Records in the same year. In this recording Hansel was represented by Jennifer larmore while Gretel was represented by Rebecca Evans. The Philharmonia recording of Hansel and Gretel of 2007 was rated as the Gramophone editor’s choice of the month in September 2007. The opera proceeded to win other rewards for quality editing and composition.
In addition to audio records, the opera was also recorded in video form. In fact, In 1981, a television film of Gretel and Hansel was made by August Everding. This video has been shown severally on the United States television for, ‘Great performances series’. The video has been seen as one of the great work of arts translated from the medieval ages to the current date.
This video has been nominated by the United States as great work of arts. The work has since been put on Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). Hansel was represented by Edita Gruberova while Hansel was represented by Brigitte Fassbaender. The recording was conducted by Georg Solti. The witch was represented by Sena Jurinac while the father of Hansel and Gretel was represented by Hermann prey.
The video was portrayed as an example of revival of medieval works of folk tales in the form of videos hence giving life and continuity to the literary works of the past. The ideas that ancient artists and literature gurus had been since portrayed as dormant but not completely desolate. Since the revival of this folktale by the August Everding, many other folk tales have been revived in the form of videos across the world.
Hansel and Gretel on Movies, TVs, and Radios
Hansel and Gretel was aired on city opera transmission channels during a Christmas period in the dawn of 1930s. The opera became the initial opera to be aired on the radio in complete forms since its inception. It is from this publicity that Hansel and Gretel became overly popular among the audience of Metropolitan radio and in the country at large.
According to de Blécourt (2012, 280), it was in 1954 when the soap was sired in the form of ‘techno color’ kind of film. In this film Hansel and Gretel was aired in English. The film was relayed in the form of stop motion puppets. The play was directed by Padraic Colum. The voice of the witch in Hansel and Gretel opera was voiced by Anna Russell.
However, the opera had no complete representation since it was relayed in the form of operetta. In fact, it had dialogue in the open form among the representatives. The father to Gretel and Hansel was represented in the film by Frank Rogiers who also played the role of the husband to the wicked stepmother. Both Gretel and Hansel were represented by the voice and actions of Constance Brigham.
The wicked mother was represented by Mildred Dunnock. The film was put in the form of DVD. It is available at various points in the world. The opera Hansel and Gretel was also fashioned and aired by the Canadian information dissemination conglomerate under the steer of Norman Campbell. In this production, the witch woman was represented by Maureen Forrester.
In addition, Hansel and Gretel was aired on the Christmas day. The program was aired by PBs live from met. The show was telecasted in series and was delivered in English. The whole project was put in Digital versatile Disc (DVD). In fact, it is now available in various outlets across the world. Byran ( 2013, 86) affirms that Hansel and Gretel was also aired on the television in a series that eliminated spectacles of children fantasy.
This television cast was under the direction of Frank Corsaro, having been produced by Maurice Sendak in 1998. The production of this opera in the form of television series was again seen as a great revival of traditional folk tales in the form of televised program series. Finally, the opera was also recorded and televised by the Royal opera house, which is based in London in the United Kingdom.
The opera was recorded in German. It was then associated with Opus Arte an opera specialist in Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). The DVD was also associated to British broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and also to NHK. This recording was done by Patrice Caurier and Morshe Leiser. In the recording, Gretel was represented by Diana Damrau, while Hansel was represented by Angelika Kirchlager.
The witch was represented by Anja Silja while Thomas Allen acted as Peter. A comparison of the differences between the Opera version by Engelbert Humperdinck and the original Bother Grimm’s story
Introduction of new Characters
In the Opera, the librettist (Adelheid Wett) introduced two new characters: The Dew fairy and the Sand man. When Hansel and Gretel end up in the forest looking for strawberries, they get distracted and soon enough, it gets too dark. They begin to panic and Gretel starts to cry out for their parents. Hansel comforts her.
Soon afterwards, a man bearing a sac of sand on his back appears and sprinkles some magic sand on them, which lulls them to sleep. At this point, Hansel and Gretel say their evening prayer and drift off to sleep as angels appear to stand guard over them. The librettist also added the chorus of echoes, which were the only response Hansel heard when he cried besides the angels who watched over the children while they slept.
The angles are also said to come with a beam of light that lights up the whole forest. In the morning, the dew fairy appears and sprinkles some dew on the children to stir them awake and Gretel gets up first, greeting the new dawn with song before tickling Hansel awake.
These characters (the sand man, the dew fairy, and the angels are not present in the fairy tale version of Hansel and Gretel published by the Brothers’ Grimm in 1857, or even in any of the earlier versions dating back to 1812, which was the year when the story was first published. Instead, they are an addition by the librettist. The librettist may have added these characters to give more life to the folk tale and to exaggerate the fiction.
With these characters, the suspense level on the reader of the tale or even on the listener and the film together with television audience is a bit relieved. The reader who in most cases is worried about the fate of the children Hansel and Gretel is relieved when angels come over to guard the children. Such characters were not there in the original script by the Grimm brothers who wrote the folk tale as purely tales.
Additional characters like these make the folk tale more interesting especially when it is put in film, video, or is audio. Adelheid Wett adds these characters in her effort to turn the tale into a dramatized performance to be played out by her children. Since Wett meant the tale to be played by her children during a happy season, she could have added the characters to make the tale more relevant to the season and more interesting rather than scaring.
The additions are far from irrelevant especially considering that she wanted to end up with the script of a performance that is akin to a play, which is usually long and very elaborate. Consequently, it was reasonable to increase the span of the performance and one way of achieving this is usually through the addition of new characters, who would take some time in performing their roles.
It is noteworthy that such characters are not supposed to introduce any new concept to the performance, meaning that they should not come in to do something completely different from what the tale comprises of. Instead, they can be brought in to effect a very obvious but silent albeit being salient part of the tale. In the case of the Opera for Hansel and Gretel, Adelheid Wett did a magnificent job of such time elongation in introducing the sand man and the dew fairy, who are symbolic of the falling asleep and coming awake of Hansel and Gretel.
De Blécourt (2008,30) argues that the two characters are also interesting to the children who were the major target of the Hansel and Gretel folk tale. Additionally, the angels are far from irrelevant in the context of the story because Hansel and Gretel pray before they fall asleep and so the appearance of angels is s depiction of their prayers being answered.
It also fills the space between the times when they sleep and when they come awake because these two are the main characters and so it would be digression to try and use such a time to depict what their parents were doing or what the witch was doing for instance. Such unwarranted exposures of the minor characters and protagonist would create a different impression about the position taken in the opera and this would jeopardize the fidelity of the narration in comparison with the actual tale.
The Grimm brothers’ did not depict such characters since their idea of the folk tale was authentic and was a true reflection of the occurrences of the ancient life in the Baltic. The memories of the famine, which had hit the Baltic region in the medieval period, would not have been depicted with any episodes of constructed relief. The plain language of the Grimm brothers depict the right tone and moods that are to be associated with such occurrences that caused people to turn cannibalistic.
However, to bring the folk tale to the level of children and in a bid to make it in various occasions that children celebrate in life, such characters as the angels and the fairly had to be brought in by Wett. It is worth noting that when it came to publishing of Wett’s work by her brother it involved numerous editing to cut the flaws and streamline editing.
As noted above, in the opera, Hansel and Gretel’s parents are given names as the father becomes Peter and the mother is Gertrude. In the original work of the Grimm brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob, the parents were not assigned names. The writer used the conventional nouns of father, and mother. However, in the work of Wett, she accords names to the two characters.
This gives the audience a more real impression of these two characters unlike in the tale where they are referred to obscurity as the father and the mother, which sometimes changed to step mother and even the woman and therefore, confused the reader often as to whom exactly was being referred to. The use of actual names for the parents makes the story more authentic and particular in details.
For example, the confusion that arises when the folk tale Gretel and Hansel is translated to other languages is eliminated. The reader will therefore have consistency in flow of plot and ideas. Such a move also eliminates confusion in readers who may happen to discuss. Naming is important in that it helps the reader remember the characters with ease.
With factual names like Peter and Gertrude, the author distinguishes them from other characters. This also makes it difficult for future editors and translators to change the names like it has happened with the name ‘mother” in this story. The use of factual names like peter and Gertrude also brings into account the cultural and religious aspect of the society. Wett uses the names Gertrude and Peter.
These names affirm the spiritual aspects of society. The society depicted in the folk tale that Wett paints is Christian in spirituality. The two names that Wett assigns to the parents are Christian in nature and are depicted in most Christian books like the holy bible. This brings the reader from the medieval times, which the Grimm brothers had in mind.
In the time that Wett hands over the materials on the tale to her brother, she had already tailored it to fit her children needs. The opera was meant for Christian celebrations for her children. The children were supposed to dramatize the play during the Christmas celebrations. Christmas celebrations are only celebrated by the Christians only.
The Grimm brothers did not bring out aspects of spirituality in the folktale. The names Hansel and Gretel have also changed in the later German version or editions of the story from Hansel (also indicting an inclusion of the Umlaut) and Gretel, which have since become obsolete to Hansel and Gretel. This change is recorded in the script of the opera version by Adelheid Wett.
In Wett’s folk tale of Gretel and Hansel, the she brings in angels as additional characters who would protect the children from the evils that may come with darkness. The angels are also spiritual beings, which are depicted in many religions especially in Christianity. Since Wett meant that the folk tale be dramatized by her children during the Christmas celebration , the idea of angels who are also depicted in the Christian legend of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The birth of Jesus Christ from whom Christianity is derived is controlled and occasioned by angels at various points. Christians are also said to heavily believe in angels who are sent from heavens to protect and secure the saints. Wett could have wanted her children to learn more and understand the role of the angels in the life of a Christian.
Children would therefore learn that even when there are enemies in their lives who would want to hurt them just like the ogre wanted to hurt Hansel and Gretel, angels are sent by God to secure them. In this folk tale the angels come with light and protect the children all night long. Additionally, De Blécourt (2008 ,30) observe that in the tale, Hansel and Gretel’s father is just referred to as a woodcutter.
However, in the opera, he is called Peter and he trades in brooms as is evident when he explains to his wife Gertrude that that day he made great profit in the market, as there was a trade fair as an explanation for where he had all the food, which he brought home. The decision to use the name peter instead of woodcutter may have been evoked by the need to distinguish this character from others.
Various folk tales that were written on the medieval times have depicted the character by the name woodcutter. It therefore becomes difficult to distinguish a character in one folk tale from another. In fact, there is lack of autonomy, and authenticity of the stories. Many characters have been regarded as woodcutters in previous stories. Wett may also have had a different perspective on issues of specificity compared to the Grimm brothers.
When the husband to the evil woman is named peter, which is a Christian name, there reader is also provoked to see him as a Christian man. The expectations are that Peter would have resisted the evil advice that came from her wife to dump the children in the forest due to hunger.
As the head of the family the woodcutter would have resisted the pressure from her wife. In fact, at the end of the story, the husband,(Peter) is portrayed as a frustrated man when the wife dies. He is left alone in the house. The author uses children to indicate continuity of the parents as it is the case even in the modern societies.
The demeanor of the parents
A second difference between the Brothers Grimm’s version of Hansel and Gretel and that of Engelbert Humperdinck is found in the demeanor and personalities of the parents. Firstly, it is evident in Engelbert’s opera composition that parents are given names Peter and Gertrude. Additionally, in the opera, Gertrude is the children’s mother and not step mother.
However, it is noteworthy that this point is debatable since most of these changes occurred during translation into English and the German version of the opera may still have the integrity of the first version, which was the Brothers Grimm tale. According to de Blécourt (2012, 280) an example of such a point of controversy is the reference to the woman in the children’s lives as mother or stepmother.
In the German version, the term “die frau” is used, which could be translated as “his wife”, “the wife”, “his woman”, or “the woman.” This could have been a point of difference in the varied versions of the tale that have ended up in different languages. Although all these translations are in English, they may mean different things to different people.
The interpreters and translators may have captured the meaning of the word differently hence the variation in demeanor. When the tale versions of the earlier translation regard to Gertrude as a mother and other versions regard to him as a stepmother, the differences may be stemmed to the understanding of the translators.
Another point of importance is the fact that, in the opera, the woman and the man who are Hansel and Gretel’s parents do not come off as being either harsh or selfish. The children are industriously working on their chores while battling with hunger when Hansel sets aside his work and sips off some of the milk from the jar.
Gretel, upon noticing his inattention, tells him to get back to work because their mother would be upset if she found that the chores were not complete. Hansel says that he wants to dance instead and Gretel agrees that this sounds like a wonderful idea and so they start to dance. Their mother finds them dancing with their chores incomplete and gets incensed.
As she is going to administer punishment, she accidentally topples the jar of milk, which falls and all the milk spills. Now irate, she orders the children to go and gather strawberries. Their father finds her in the house and they have an amicable exchange (including him giving her a big kiss to which she responds by accusing him of being drunk).
Classen (2011, 94) points at the fact that drunkenness remains a major cause of poverty despite any other idea that the Grimm brothers would have wanted to depict. Although the family of the woodcutter is in dire need of money he can still find money to go and drink. It is even ironical for the couple to dump the children in the forest citing reasons of lack of enough food to feed them while the husband is still spending money in drinking places.
One cannot stop to wonder why the parents enjoy the sack of food that the woodcutter comes home with while the students, Hansel and Gretel are away. Afterwards, he playfully asks her for supper where she says that there is nothing to eat as she just spilt the last jar of milk while trying to punish the children.
He pulls out a sack of food and they rejoice as it turns out that he had great luck in the market selling brooms that day. This stage is a phenomenal change to the story because, now, the theme about lack of food being the excuse that the evil stepmother used to convince Hansel and Gretel’s father that they needed to abandon the children is no longer valid.
It is exacerbated when the father asks where the children are at that moment and the mother replies that for all she knows they could be at ‘Ilsenstein’. This news terrifies Peter who knows that this is the dark abode of the evil witch who rides on a broomstick, and lures children into her gingerbread house to eat them and so they immediately leave together to go and trace their children.
The turn of events
De Blécourt (2008,30) argue that in the tale, the children overhear their stepmother telling their father that they should be disposed of by being taken to the forest and abandoned there for the wild animals to devour them and this would leave their parents with enough food to eat. Their father is reluctant to do his but the woman persists until he agrees.
Gretel is heartbroken and she breaks down in tears but Hansel consoles her telling her not to worry, as God would not forsake them. He then goes out in the dark and collects shiny pebbles and hides them in his pocket. The next day when their parents take them into the forest and abandon them, they wait until moonlight and then trace their way back home with the help of the luminous pebbles.
In this episode, children are depicted as being wiser than their evil parents are. They are able to think fast and outwit their parents. Contrary to the previous happenings where the parents go to the dark forest in search of the two children, they are now the ones to dispose them into the same forest. The good intentions that were depicted earlier on in the story are quickly overturned by events and the parents now want the children dead so that they can continue eating what they gather for a longer time.
They stay home for a long while until their food is running low again and the woman brings up the subject of abandoning the children once more. To convince their father, she says that a person does not mention A and fail to mention B, which means that, since he accepted the plan the first time, he has to go through with it this time too.
Unlike in the Grimm brothers’ version where the husband and the mother had no names, in Wettte’s work the two have names. The Husband is depicted as a Christian and as a hard working man. However he is unable to make decisions and he bows to wrong decisions made by the evil woman. The author portrays the man as one who is easily fooled by his love for his wife, to throw away his children into the forest and wait for the wild animals to destroy them.
This was not the nature of human beings in the medieval ages. Hansel and Gretel overhear this plot as well. However, this time, Hansel cannot get out of the quarters to gather the stones because their stepmother had sheltered the entrance point. Consequently, the next day, he has to use the breadcrumbs he has to mark their path but when the moon is out, they realize that they cannot trace the crumbs, as birds must have eaten them.
The next day, the look for the way home but cannot find it and they are tired. They find the witch’s ‘bread, cake, and candy’ cottage on the third morning as they are led by a certain white bird. Depiction of the white bird is a strategy to reveal the connection that the children had. It shows that a supernatural power was in control of the lives of the two children.
In the opera, there is no indication of the evil stepmother having planned to get rid of Hansel and Gretel. This was completely contrary to the expectations of a reader who has gone through the original folk tale work by the Grimm brothers. In the Grimm brothers had painted the mother as a completely heartless and evil woman. The mother was a woman who had a bad intention about the lives of Hansel and Gretel.
For example, in Grimm brothers’ original version, the mother wanted the children dumped in the forest so that wield animals would devour on them. In fact, she takes a lot of time to prevail upon her husband on how they should get rid of the children. At last, the woodcutter accepts the plea of his wife where they go out to dump their own children.
Contrary to this matter is Wett’s folk tale in which the mother is depicted as a very understanding and loving woman. If anything, she prays that God would help her find a way of feeding the two children. It is ironical for such a woman who was originally depicted as children’s worst hatter to think positively about them. Additionally, before her return, when Hansel complains that he is feeling hungry, Gretel tells him that when their mother returns, she would make them a lovely pudding with that milk which is in the jar.
This difference in the demeanor of the woman in Hansel and Gretel father’s life is very apparent between these two literary pieces. Additionally, the stepmother in the tale becomes the mother in the opera, which goes hand in hand with bringing out her humanity and her empathy towards the children. Moreover, the fact that she picks a stick to hit them when she finds them dancing instead of working on completing their chores should not be taken in the post modernist perspective that completely frowns upon corporal punishment of children.
Classen ( 2011, 94) confirms how some of the original depictions of the tale remain despite the much modifications that are put forward by the translators and video developers of the folktale. For example the mother is depicted in Wett’s folk tale as human and considerate but at the end of the day she picks the stick to beat up the two children. This completely becomes a spoiler of the picture that her immediate actions had painted in the mind of the reader.
In Adelheid’s day and age (1893), most societies conformed to the direct interpretation of the Psalmist verse, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” which means that, in her era, indicating that the mother intended to give Hansel and Gretel a good thrashing was not a way of expressing cruel and harsh treatment. Rather, it was an acceptable and even expected form of punishment and even expression of her love for them by chastising them.
Consequently, this removal from the character of the stepmother in the Brothers Grimm’s version is interesting. The general expectation from the reader is that step mothers are bound to punish children that are left behind by the previous wife or wives. The character and nature of such a woman may be hard to control when it comes to taking care of foster children.
The author may have found it easier to make the behavior of the mother to be milder in comparison to the same person bearing the name stepmother. Also interesting is the passage of time between when the children end up in the forest and when they end up at the witch’s house. In the tale, they ended up at the witch’s house on the third morning.
However, in the operatic performance, they end up in the witch’s house the day after they are sent into the forest by their mother to fetch strawberries. The sense of time may be influenced by the mode of presentation of the folk tale. When the presented in form of opera the composer has a closer sense of time that when the folk tale is written on a book. This may have created the difference between the two positions.
However, the translators should be careful to ensure that even after translation, the content of the tale and the objectives are not altered. At the witch’s house, Hansel and Gretel are eating the house when the witch opens the door and they get frightened. In the tale, the witch pretends to show concern in a display of rare hospitality welcomes them into her house by preparing a wonderful meal for them.
After they eat, she makes two crisp white beds for them and it is only until the next morning that she reveals her malevolence to them. In the opera, immediately she walks out of the door, she grabs them and ties Hansel with a rope ad invites them into the house.
However, they are still weary of her and immediately Hansel wiggles free of the rope, they turn to run away but she casts a freezing spell and locks Hansel in a cage) and announces that she is going to eat them then drags them into her house kicking and screaming. The character and nature of the witch in the two versions are different.
In the original version, the Grimm brothers are a bit reluctant to indicate the true nature of the witch woman while in the Wett’s version the author moves fast to depict the actual character and intention of the witch. The difference in the way the witch is portrayed may be due to sense of time and translation. In operas there is need to make the tale move fast hence there would be need to make some episode close to each other.
According to Wunderer (2009, 92), the fact remains that the major characteristic of the witch woman that the writers wanted to demonstrate is brought out. In the Grimm brothers’ version, the witch has a very enticing heart that she uses to lure children into her trap. However, in Wett’s version, the witch moves directly to trap the children and even to cast out a bad spell on them.
Perhaps this indicates the gap between modernity ad age-old literatures. The modern generations depict Wett’s children as people that accept and embrace speed. On the other hand the Grimm brothers may have lived in a slower and time spending periods in history. The intention of the Grimm brothers may have been altered with time by the changing conditions and circumstances in which children develop.
For example, in the modern society, the evil people do not prepare you when they want to destroy you. The chances of reconciliation are also very low hence people can strike each other without causing much attention from others. Moreover, in the tale, it is Gretel who heroically saves the day when she singlehandedly pushes the witch into the oven where the witch had intended to push her.
In the opera, she unfreezes Hansel first and together they push the evil witch into the oven. According to Wunderer (2009, 92), the work of Wett and the original work of the Grimm brothers completely differ in flow and steps at this point. However, the major lesson that the writers want to send to the reader is clear that children are clever than evil people and that children can overcome problems though their own initiatives.
Although the character of the children is also altered by the order of events at this point in the folk tale, the original writers intended that the two children be seen as united and cooperative. The author wanted to bring out the purposes and the power of working together as a team especially when facing a common enemy. When the Grimm brothers plot the tale to follow in a way that it is Gretel who shovel the witch woman into the furnace demonstrate her as a courageous and calculating girl.
In fact this scenario has been cited by many women empowerment leaders and activist. Women have the power to save their male counterparts. In the other version by Wett, Gretel begins by unfreezing Hansel where the two push the witch woman into the furnace. The character of the girl is depicted as that of caring and calculating. However, they are depicted as being dependant on men for help.
For example, Gretel had to depend on Hansel to push the blind woman into the furnace. At the end of it all, both the boy and the girl rejoice with their father when they finally get home to find that their stepmother had passed on. Another difference in the opera is the theme of prayer, especially when the other utters a prayer after she has chased her children out to go and fetch strawberries. She asks God to provide her with a way of feeding her children.
Moreover, the extreme harshness of the parents of Hansel and Gretel is somewhat sublime in the opera. One translator noted that this was probably because Adelheid Wett wanted her brother to capture the fear and drama that these characters instilled and stimulated respectively in the songs that he composed for her version of the tale.
About Composer, Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck who was the composer of the opera “Hansel and Gretel” was born on 1 September 1854 in Siegburg Germany near born. He began to study music by learning how to play the piano when he was seven years old. He obtained the conventional education at Padeborn. His parents, especially his father, tried to steer him into architecture but his love for music won the battle of career orientation when after reading a script he wrote for a class play, composer Ferdinand Hiller encouraged Engelbert to study music.
Taking this counsel to heart, he would later attend the Cologne Conservatory at 18 for studies in voice and composition and while there a number many prizes including the Mozart Stipend of Frankfurt in 1876. Such awards usually came with a financial bonus and this particular one enabled him to travel to Munich to study under the stewardship of Franz Lachner and Rheinberger.
Later, he would attend the Royal Music School (between 1877 and 1879) and while there, win the Mendelssohn Prize of Berlin from the Mendelssohn Foundation in 1879 when he was 25 years old. Consequently, he continued to study music in earnest. The coveted Mendelssohn Prize, which he won at 25, would enable him to go to various countries including Italy and Spain to display his musical talent, including a brief teaching stint at the Barcelona Conservatory in Spain before finally returning to his hometown in 1887.
It was on the trip to Italy that he met Wagner in Naples. Wagner took him under his wing as an assistant and invited him to Bayreuth. Classen (2011, 94) reveals how Wagner’s expertise speaks for itself considering that he never allowed anybody else to assist in the composition of his work. Therefore, it must be that Engelbert must have been very talented or otherwise he formed quite an impression with Wagner because Wagner asked him to assist in doing one of the startup librettos for what would become his last opera, “the Parsifal”.
Engelbert Humperdinck was the stage manager at the premiere of “the Parsifal” in 1882. Engelbert had begun to follow Wagner’s style by admiring the orientation of his music in 1878 when he had gotten information concerning Wagner’s impressive “Ring” thus consequently becoming a member of the Wagnerian musical family. “Ordem vom gral, translates to “the order of the grail.” Prior to this, his main influence had been Larzip when he had watched the opera performance of the piece, “Undine” in 1868.
This piece had its bearings on German fairytales. He worked closely with renowned musician Richard Wagner and Wagner’s influence can be seen in most of his pieces, and especially in Hansel and Gretel the opera that premiered in 1893. However, Engelbert also infused the Hansel and Gretel opera with qualities of German folk tradition and so in this section, Wagner’s music as well as German opera characteristics shall form a great source of understanding Engelbert’s inspiration in composing the Hansel and Gretel opera.
In the years following the composition of Hansel and Gretel, Engelbert was able to settle and live comfortably on the royalties that stemmed from his composition of Hansel and Gretel. This piece was so impressive that renowned German composer Richard Strauss, who conducted the production at its premiere at Weimar, defined it as, “a work of genius of the uppermost ranks.” This was particularly impressive especially when viewed in light of Strauss’ often-disparaging comments and remarks concerning sentimental opera.
After his production of Hansel and Gretel in 1893, Engelbert Humperdinck would supplement his royalties with music composition, instruction (including that of Wagner’s son, Siegfried) and reviewing. He passed away of a heart attack in 1921. Engelbert Humperdinck’s introduction to music started at an early age because he was enrolled to a piano class and by the age of 7 years old, he was able to produce his first composition.
Humperdinck continued his music pursuits at a tender age and at the age of 13 years old; he made his first attempt on stage with a singspiel. In 1872 under the name Ferdinand Hiller, Humperdinck enrolled for music classes at the Cologne Conservatory, a move, which was against his parents’ wishes because they wanted him to study architecture instead (Blecourt 2008, 30).
Humperdinck was described as a calm, friendly and moderate person who was humorous. He was a loving family man who preferred to keep his family and family matters private and away from the public. Married to an intellectual woman called Hedwig Taxer, Humperdinck had one son who also got into music like his father and became a composer.
The discipline that Humperdinck had can be attributed to his family background because he was a son of a headmaster (Blecourt 2008, 30). Generally, the interest for music in Humperdinck’s family was much greater than what Humperdinck was practicing because even his sister had a great interest in music then. Humperdinck later on went to study in Munich during the year 1876 from where he was in the same school with the like of Rheinrberger Josef and Franz Paul who also went on to become great composers.
The year 1879 saw Humperdinck become the winner of the Mendelssohn Stifting foundation of Berlin, which enabled him proceed to Italy from where he was able to meet Richard Wagner in the Italian city of Naples. The opportunity to go to Italy was great, as it enabled Humperdinck work with other accomplished composers and arrangers of music and in so doing he was able to gain a lot of experience from the same.
This gave him an opportunity to work with Wagner in the production of the Parsifal. This happened between the year 1880 and 1881 when Wagner invited him to Bayreuth (Blecourt 2008, 31). Humperdinck’s winning ways continued. Once more, he became the champion of another honor, which saw him tour southern Europe by going via Italy among other countries such as Spain where he finally landed in Barcelona with a lecturing chance at the conservatoire.
After two years in Barcelona, Humperdinck headed back to Cologne. During his time in Italy with Wagner, Humperdinck became a music tutor to Wagner’s son known as Siegfried. Humperdinck’s interest in music continued to develop and this came with lots of recognition and appointments to different positions. He was also able to take on different teaching jobs at different places at the same time (Blecourt 2008, 31).
In 1890, he was taken as the university lecturer in the German city of Frankfurt due to his accomplishments in the world of music. While working under this appointment, he also got another working opportunity at the Julius Stockhausen educational as a concord tutor. This chance was just part of his music work, which had seen him produce many different works of music by this time.
Humperdinck’s greatest production was the opera Hansel and Gretel, which was produced in 1893 at the Weimer and has since remained his most popular and famous production to date. The production has survived many years since it was first done. In fact, it has now become part of many schools curriculum in different parts of the world. The production of the Opera Hansel and Gretel was a culmination of an idea by Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid who was also known as a producer of some operas and it was based on Grimm’s fairy tale.
The popularity of the opera as produced by Humperdinck can be attributed to its appeal to different age groups and it being easy to modify for different sets and it has so far been hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces. Humperdinck’s knowledge of music saw him work in the music field at different levels including being an Opera critic for different publications (Blecourt 2008, 32).
His authority in music made him become a figure for consultations and thus his opinion carried weight. His criticism of music was such that he had a different eye for looking at music compositions and therefore he would give constructive criticism that would see the compositions being bettered afterwards. Once more, Humperdinck was feted for his work by being made a professor by the Kaiser, an appointment that took him to live in Boppard from where he did gardening in his compound as one of his favorite pastimes.
Four years after being appointed a professor by the Kaiser, Humperdinck moved back to Berlin where he was appointed head of Meisterschule of composition (Blecourt 2008, 32). Humperdinck’s work was heavily influenced by wagner to him he was an understudy for some time while in Italy and saw him produce several Opera’s such as Die Konigskinder, Dornroschen, and Die Heirat Wider Willen.
Humperdinck stood out the first artist to apply a vocal modus operandi called the Sprechgesang, which can be described as partly singing and partly talking. The method is presently popular in so many opera productions to date. It was famously used by Arnold Schoenberg in his productions. During his time in munich, way back in the year 1876, Humperdinck took the opportunity to develop his interest in music and it was at this time that he became one of Wagner’s best students as well as assistant.
The opportunity offered to him at the time allowed him to meet some of the most accomplished and polished composers such as Lechner and Giovanni Sgambati. One of his famous students was Wagner’s son who went on to become a great composer as well and he was trained during that time when Humperdinck was in Italy under the tutelage of his father.
Humperdinck’s collaboration with playwright producer Max Reinhardt saw him provide incidental music for different Shakespearean productions in Berlin. Hansel and Gretel, which is incidentally his greatest opera production, came up as an idea from his sister who made a request to him to compose some songs for her children’s play in 1890.
Thus, he took the opportunity and transformed the tale based on Grimm’s story into a singspiel that comprised almost 20 special musical compositions with a piano complement. Thereafter he saw the potential in the production and thus transformed it into an opera, which eventually became a success. Most of Humperdinck’s compositions are heavily influenced by Wagnerian theories due to the time he spent in Italy under the mentorship of Wagner.
Hansel and Gretel became an instant hit as an Opera due to the styles employed by Humperdinck, which included rich original synthesis as well as the employment of Wagnerian techniques and the inclusion f traditional German folk songs. Although Humperdinck had almost everything working for him during his lifetime as well as during his work, he also had setbacks in life that did not work for him.
One of the setbacks occurred at the dawn of 1910s when he underwent a painful experience of stroke, which led to his left arm being completely disoriented, a problem he had to live with for the remainder of his life. In 1914, he “applied for the job of the director of the Sydney Conservatorium of music in Australia, a job he was likely to get then” (Blecourt 2008, 32)br. However, due to politics of the outbreak of the World War 1, he was bypassed for being a German because by then Germany as a nation was seen to be highly antagonistic towards other countries.
Therefore, he was denied the chance for these reasons. He was also criticized for signing to show support for the Germany army, which seen as a protagonist army, but just like any other loyal citizen, he was loyal to his country and his country’s army against expectations that he should have denounced it. The year 1915 saw Humperdinck commence his last production, Gaudeamus to which he was assisted by his son.
The production was concluded after 3 years. During most of this time, he had become partially deaf. In 1921, Humperdinck suffered a heart attack while attending his son’s Wolfram direction of Carl von Webers, Der Freischulz. He was rushed to hospital from where he eventually died from a second heart attack aged 67years.
Analysis of Characters in Opera Hansel and Gretel
The story of Hansel and Gretel is about two children abducted by a witch who plans to eat them starting with Hansel. The story portrays the different characters in different ways and they are meant to advance the story by bringing out the story line.
The Father- Peter
Peter the character in the Opera Hansel and Gretel is a poor man with a wife and two children to feed. Though poor, he makes a great effort to provide for his family. Peter lives in the forest with his family and makes brooms for sale, from which he provides for his family (George 2010, 49). On this particular day, he has gone to sell brooms so that he can feed his family, which is a portrayal of a hardworking man who is very responsible for his family.
He is loving too because when he comes back from the market after selling all the brooms to the wedding party, he comes back with food and he is happy about it. He therefore calls out for the children to come and enjoy the meal he has brought them and when he is told that they are out in the forest he becomes alarmed at the dangers of the children meeting the witch. He therefore goes out to look for them.
This shows a very responsible character that though is not very visible in the opera most of the time, he makes the opera complete by playing the role of the father. Peter looks a bit shabby from the old and tattered clothes he wears and this paints the picture of a poor man who is struggling to make ends meet for himself and his family. Peter in the act sings with a tenor or baritone voice to depict the voice of a mature man.
The Mother – Gertrude
Gertrude is the wife to Peter and the mother to Hansel and Gretel. Gertrude as a mother of the house is frustrated by the biting poverty that herself and the children go through as she wishes they could lead a better life. She keeps the children busy by allocating them chores that occupy their minds as she is away and this can be portrayed as a responsible mother who trains her children to be responsible in life.
She easily gets upset when she finds the children have not done what she had asked them to do and she therefore punishes them for that (George 2010, 49). She is therefore a disciplinarian of some sort because she puts the children back in order whenever they tend to go astray. Gertrude though is an irresponsible mother as well because when she finds the children playing instead of doing the work they are supposed to do, she punishes them by sending them to the forest to find berries for supper.
This she does oblivious to the fact that the forest is a dangerous place for children of that age and that rather an older person should have gone instead. She remains careless because when darkness sets in, she shows little concern on the whereabouts of the children until her husband comes in and asks for them. Gertrude is dressed in a flowing dress reminiscent of the times she is in and though her dress is old, it is decent enough for her as a woman thus the portrayal of her as a decent woman (George 2010, 49). Gertrude performs in a soprano voice as a depiction of a mature woman in a not so sharp soprano.
Hansel it eh younger brother of Gretel and is believed to be less than seven years old. He is the son of peter and Gertrude. Most of the time, he is left with his sister when their parents go out of the house. Hansel can be described as a clever young boy who knows how to manipulate situations and have his way (George 2010, 49).
Hansel is a lazy boy who loves to play so much but does not love to do any work and this he does by distracting his sister whenever she is doing work allocated to her. He understands his sister’s psychology so well that he knows how to manipulate her and this he does by asking her to dance because she would leave anything she is doing just to dance.
Hansel is loving and caring and whenever his sister cries because of hunger, he would distract her from crying by again asking her to dance, which she does. Hansel loves to play outside. In fact, just as his sister, he is very happy when they are told to go to the woods to look for berries to for the family’s meal. This is oblivious to the fact that the wood’s is a very dangerous place for small children.
He also has a sweet tooth as he falls in to the witch’s trap by breaking a piece of candy off the witch’s mobile house. This leads to them being captured by the witch and he is locked up in a cage and fed on raisins as a way of fattening him up for eating in future. He is heroic though because when set free by his sister, he rushes to help her push the witch into the oven.
Gretel is the daughter of Peter and Gertrude and the older sister to Hansel. Gretel loves to dance so much that she is easily distracted from whatever she is doing when asked to dance. Dancing takes away the sorrows she suffers in her poverty-stricken family as she tries to be as happy as possible. Gretel has been taught to be responsible by her mother and she is seen repairing her torn stockings when their parents are away.
She is a clever girl. At the same time she is able to distract her brother when he is very hungry by showing him a pitcher of milk as a way of giving hope to her brother that there is food in the house but then she distracts him by showing him a little dance that carries them away (George 2010, 49).
Gretel is easily distracted by things that impress girls because when they get in the woods, she gets more interested in making a wreath of wild flowers than doing what took them there. When they are captured by the witch, she reveals her level of cleverness and confidence by mastering the witch’s supernatural utterances, which she uses to cast the spell.
She is portrayed as smart once more when she gets to know the witch’s plans to bake her and then her brother and she therefore devices a plan that would save both of them from the impending plans by the witch. After learning the strange supernatural utterances, she secretly casts the spell placed on her brother. This is an indication that she is an intelligent girl.
The witch is an old woman riding in a mobile house pulled by a cat with a hat riding a bicycle. Everything about the witch is bizarre as the world she lives in. The witch is a tricky person who traps young children and bakes them into ginger bread. She tricks the children by enticing them with candy, which is what makes her house.
She uses evil magic forces to take control of the children and binds them with a spell that renders them prisoners under her will. Everything about the witch is weird and bizarre. For instance, she has a cat riding her bicycle and pulling her carriage, which in normal circumstances is unheard of but only in the witch’s world where it happens (George 2010, 50).
The witch is a cannibal who feeds on human flesh. Thus, she views the children as a perfect meal. She puts Hansel into a cage and feeds him on raisins to fatten him before she eats him afterwards. The witch uses a magic wand to cast spells on the children she captures. When she is happy, she rides on a broom to celebrate whatever she is happy about. Everything about the witch is negative and evil.
The witch pretends to have good intentions at first yet she is evil deep inside her. Everything about her is black and this indicates the dark side of the world she represents in the play. She is also blind and she keeps bumping into things as she moves around. The demise of the witch gets closer when Gretel learns her magic words and uses them to free her brother and together they push her into the oven thus winning the battle.
The sandman appears before the children as the good person. Although strange and with magical powers, he uses the magical powers to lull the children into sleep and with that provides them with 14 angels to look after them in the dangerous night deep into the woods (George 2010, 50). The sandman is a minor character in the opera and appears at one particular point when needed.
The sandman has magic also but unlike the witch, he uses his magic for the good of the children by protecting them, the witch uses her magic to harm the children. The strange thing about the sandman like all who have magic powers, appears from nowhere deep in the forest and disappears again in the same manner with his sack after sprinkling the children with golden sand and an assurance of restful night.
The Dew Fairy
The dew fairy is also a minor character in the opera and appears only when it is time to wake the children up. The dew fairy sprinkles Gretel the eldest of the two with dewdrops that wakes her up from the night’s sleep (George 2010, 50). The dew fairy too has magical powers because she can appear and disappear at the same time.
When the children are put to sleep by the Sandman, they tend to be in a sort of spell from the sandman, a spell that puts them to sleep by taking away their fear of the wild woods. Therefore, the dew fairy comes in the morning to wake them up by breaking the good spell and freeing them from sleep to which Gretel.
The Row of Gingerbread Children
The row of Gingerbread children making up the fence at first looks like just that, gingerbread made in the form of children. They are actually real children captured by the witch and made to look like gingerbread to attract other children. The characters are brightly painted to look attractive in the play (Middleton 2011, 113). When the witch dies, they find their voice and call out to Hansel and Gretel who come out and free them.
The gingerbread children show how vulnerable all the children are against the witch because she was able to ensnare them with her magic the same way she was able to snare Hansel and Gretel. They are finally freed from the spell when Gretel pronounces the magic words she learnt from the witch and which liberates them.
The Way Music is Composed and Related to Each Character
The use of music in the performing arts is meant to create a certain mood that carries away the audience as they anticipate the next move. Music brings about mood and tone in a performance in that whatever is being acted is accompanied different pitches and beats as well as dancing. An opera is a musical act where instead of talking, the characters sing the words at different speeds depending on the mood they wish to create.
When Gretel and Hansel are talking to each other, it is a normal talk and is thus portrayed in the performance by use of simple melody and moderate beats that allow the words to be heard without struggling (Blecourt 2008, 32). In this case each character has their own tone of voice to depict their age and sex. Gretel in this case uses the normal soprano because it is a voice to be sued by the heroine.
One would be forced to postulate that such a high voice depicts virtue. In this case, Gretel is the heroine because she has almost the whole opera act revolving around her. Hansel on the other hand will use the mezzo-soprano, which is not very high thus recommended for young boys in the act. The mezzo-soprano can also be used by Gertrude.
When Gretel and Hansel are on stage and being the main characters, they are given a longer song as a way of creating a narration to the audience. Short songs in this case might lose the storyline the audience is supposed to follow thus a longer song gives the main characters a chance to shine.
When Gretel and Hansel are alone in the house, the speed of the songs vary because depending on the mood they are trying to portray (Blecourt 2008, 35). When the two characters Gretel and Hansel are hungry, the singing and the beat tends to become slower and slower with the most heard voice being the soprano and the mezzo-soprano from Hansel.
The beat from the orchestra will also slow down to just the violin as a way of creating an almost quite environment. When Gretel and Hansel start to dance, it starts with a startle as the idea slowly comes into play. The music will then sharply rise as the two characters start dancing, which will see them sing higher and louder with the orchestra playing along too.
This will be sharply cut by the entry of Gertrude who will become angry at finding the kids playing instead of working. Her pitch will rise steadily as she questions them and then become fast as she reprimands them angrily (Blecourt 2008, 36). Music will be used here to depict anger and disappointment that Gertrude will be feeling.
When the children go out to look for berries, the music will run at a moderate speed as they will be excited to go out, it will then play faster as they run out and slowly slow down to the moderate with mainly the violin being heard. Here the use of simple melody will come in as the children gather berries in the wild. When it becomes dark, drumbeats will come in at a louder and faster rate, as the kids get scared of the dark.
This will stop abruptly with the entry of the sandman who will be singing bass or baritone as he sprinkles golden sand on the children for them to sleep. The tone is meant to lull the children, so it comes with slower un-disturbing beats. While sleeping, the beats should be soft and at a distance until when the Children are woken up by the dew fairy.
The sighting of the witch’s house should be accompanied by the sound of drums that will be beating slowly with one beat at a time. The beats should continue until Hansel plucks a piece of candy from the widow of the witch’s house, which should be accompanied by one big and loud drumbeat that should stop with the breaking of the candy (Blecourt 2008, 38).
The witch’s voice should be accompanied by a slow and randomly mixed beat with the violin being heard the loudest. The witch’s voice will be contralto to shoe coarseness in the voice and can be accompanied by a big bang of the drums when she comes out to take the children in this should be accompanied by faster singing and instrumentals as a way of indicating panic in the air and the creating of suspense. The scene in the witch’s house should be accompanied by a longer song as the witch prepares to bake the children and as the children plan to escape.
The scene should be soft with the orchestra playing slow beats loud enough to allow the audience to hear what the characters are singing. On the other scene the entry of Peter should be used with a baritone voice and it should be slow and gradually rise as he happily gets into the house with food (Blecourt 2008, 39). The answer by Gertrude should be in the same tone in soprano and it will then be cut short by the startled peter as he realizes the children are in danger. On this instance, his surprise should be accompanied by a high baritone voice and high instrumentals, which will then beat fast according to the panicking mood.
As the children trick the witch into the oven it should start on a moderate tone of both soprano and mezzo soprano and raise as high as it can when they make it to push the witch into the oven as they celebrate. At this point, the orchestra should play the music fast. Therefore, based on the detailed analysis that the study has given concerning Humperdinck’s Opera “Hansel and Gretel, the reader has all details he or she might wish to demand.
The study has presented the opera right from the history of the Grimm brothers, background of Humperdinck’s Opera “Hansel and Gretel, a comparison of the differences between the opera version by Engelbert Humperdinck and the original Bother Grimm’s story, and a hint of Humperdinck who is the composer of the opera among other details. Otherwise, it suffices to declare the whole composition an informative piece of masterwork.
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