Hansel & Gretel: Let Them Eat Cake

As a holiday treat David Copperfield took Heidi and Alice in Wonderland to Hansel & Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera. This Humperdinck opera, in a production by Richard Jones, gives viewers the chance to see familiar fairy tale characters in a slightly wacky light–the children get lost in a forest full of trees comprised of besuited men wearing antler-like branches; they are served a banquet presided over by gigantic chefs and a fish-headed butler; the Wicked Witch is like a deranged Italian mama, forcing cake down their throats the better to eat them. In the end, after the Witch is charred to death, all the kids she has enchanted come to life and join Hansel, Gretel, and their parents in a triumphant feast of food and song.

The opera reinforces a basic theme in many fairy tales, which is just as important as love or fortune: hunger. Hansel & Gretel is the perfect vehicle for winter, the time when famine so often killed without mercy. And who better to conquer hunger than children, those eternal emblems of spring, rebirth and the return of nature’s bounty? Like Christmas itself, the misadventure of Hansel & Gretel brings joy and hope to the depths of our longest, darkest days.

As December 25th approaches and the warmth of living rooms all lit-up and filled with good things to eat conquers the frost outside, remember to read Hansel and Gretel Inside the House of Candy by Annabelle Troy.  The book, a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale, is available on Amazon:


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