A Nanaimo opera production is looking to hit a high note with children in the telling of the classic fairytale, Hansel and Gretel just in time for Halloween.
Opera Nanaimo will bring Grimm’s tale of treats, magic and two mischievous siblings to the stage, Oct. 28 and 29, with the hope of introducing a younger generation to the opera and sparking their imagination and creativity.
Hansel and Gretel is about two siblings who run off into the forest where they are supposed to gather strawberries for their mother after breaking her jug of milk —the only thing they had for dinner that night. The two youngsters have no idea the forest is home to a witch, a “really good baker” who entices children to come into her gingerbread house where she puts them into her oven to create gingerbread children.
Mari Lyn Kelly, stage director, said creative license hasn’t really been taken with the opera other than with the witch, who’s “quite different.” Kelly is keeping the storybook villain a surprise, but said she won’t be a hook-nosed, wart-faced, green colored and black robed witch. What people can expect from the opera, she said, is some fun, comedy and joy and themes around fear of being alone in unfamiliar surroundings and of being hungry.
Hansel and Gretel was chosen with the idea the younger generation needs to be come more familiar with opera.
“Opera is just so fanciful, it has wonderful music and it has wonderful ideas and themes, like the Magic Flute. It’s just full of imagination. That’s what we want to tap into is children’s imagination and creativity and doing it through singing,” said Kelly, who adds the operas are sung in English, use local talent from Victoria and Nanaimo and the singing is beautiful.
“It’s not what people think of opera often.”
Helping to set the tone is Nanaimo’s Talia Bowell, 15, who plays the dew fairy.
It’s the first opera performance for Bowell, whose music teacher suggested she audition for Hansel and Gretel, and she’ll be the youngest member of the main cast.
“It’s really neat, because I get to see all these experienced, older singers and so their voices are really beautiful. It’s just nice to be a part of,” said Bowell, who sings a solo in a scene with a sleeping Hansel and Gretel.
Fifteen members of the Nanaimo Youth Choir are also in the opera, along with Nanaimo’s Karen Hunter as the sandman.
Hansel will be played by Victoria’s Kelsey Wheatley, who’s worked with Pacific Opera Victoria with roles in Otello and Les Miserables. Gretel is played by Amy Steggles, also from Victoria with experience in operas like Cosi fan tutte and Don Pasquale.
The opera is at 7 p.m., Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ecumenical Centre on Spartan Road. Tickets are $28 for adults and $5 for children under 16 and can be purchased at the Port Theatre box office at 250-754-8550 or www.porttheatre.com.