Hansel And Gretel

A Fairytale in three pictures by ADELHEID WETTE.


After a long period of "Sturm und Drang" we have an opera so fresh and

simple, that any child will delight in it! It not only captivates

children and people of simple tastes; but, the most blases must

acknowledge its charms. No thrilling drama, but a simple fairytale,

known in every nursery has a
hieved this wonder. It is a revelation.

True music finds its way to the hearts, and how wonderfully refreshing

are these simple nursery songs, recalling days of sweet childhood, how

droll and truly realistic are these children in their natural and

naive sauciness! Here is no display of human passions; simply and

clearly the old fairytale goes on, embellished by the masterly way in

which the musician handles the modern orchestra.

The first act represents the miserable little hut of a broom-maker.

Hansel is occupied in binding brooms, Gretel is knitting and singing

old nursery-songs, such as "Susy, dear Susy, what rattles in the

straw." Both children are very hungry, and wait impatiently for the

arrival of their parents. Hansel is particularly bad-tempered, but the

merry and practical Gretel finding some milk in a pot, soon soothes his

ruffled feelings by the promise of a nice rice-pap in the evening.

Forgetting work and hunger, they begin to dance and frolic, until they

roll on the ground together. At this moment their mother enters, and

seeing the children idle, her wrath is kindled, and she rushes at them

with the intention of giving them a sound whipping. Alas instead of

Hansel she strikes the pot and upsets the milk. The mother's vexation

cools and only sorrow remains, but she quickly puts a little basket

into Gretel's hands, and drives the children away, bidding them look

for strawberries in the woods. Then sinking on a chair utterly

exhausted, she falls asleep. She is awakened by her husband, who comes

in singing and very gay. She sees that he has had a drop too much and

is about to reproach him, but the words die on her lips, when she sees

him unfold his treasures, consisting of eggs, bread, butter and coffee.

He tells her that he has been very fortunate at the church-ale

(Kirmes), and bids her prepare supper at once. Alas, the pot is

broken, and the mother relates, that finding the children idle, anger

got the better of her, and the pot was smashed to pieces. He

goodnaturedly laughs at her discomfiture, but his merriment is changed

to grief, when he hears that their children are still in the forest,

perhaps even near the Ilsenstein, where the wicked fairy lives, who

entices children in order to bake and devour them. This thought so

alarms the parents that they rush off, to seek the children in the


The second act is laid near the ill-famed Ilsenstein. Hansel has

filled his basket with strawberries, and Gretel is winding a garland of

red hips, with which Hansel crowns her. He presents her also with a

bunch of wild flowers and playfully does homage to this queen of the

woods. Gretel enjoying the play, pops one berry after another into her

brother's mouth; then they both eat, while listening to the cuckoo.

Before they are aware of it, they have eaten the whole contents of the

basket and observe with terror, that it has grown too dark, either to

look for a fresh supply, or to find their way home. Gretel begins to

weep and to call for her parents, but Hansel, rallying his courage,

takes her in his arms and soothes her, until they both grow sleepy.

The dustman comes, throwing his dust into their eyes, but before their

lids close, they say their evening-prayer; then they fall asleep and

the fourteen guardian-angels, whose protection they invoked, are

seen stepping down the heavenly ladder to guard their sleep.

In the third act the morning dawns. Crystal drops are showered on the

children by the angel of the dew, Gretel opens her eyes first and wakes

her brother with a song. They are still entranced by the beautiful

angel-dream they have had, when suddenly their attention is aroused by

the sight of a little house, made entirely of cake and sugar.

Approaching it on tiptoe, they begin to break off little bits, but a

voice within calls out "Tip tap, tip tap, who raps at my house?" "The

wind, the wind, the heavenly child" they answer continuing to eat and

to laugh nothing daunted. But the door opens softly and out glides the

witch, who quickly throws a rope around Hansel's throat. Urging the

children to enter her house, she tells her name, Rosina sweet-tooth.

The frightened children try to escape, but the fairy raises her staff

and by a magic charm keeps them spellbound. She imprisons Hansel in a

small stable with a lattice-door, and gives him almonds and currants to

eat, then turning to Gretel, who has stood rooted to the spot, she

breaks the charm with a juniper bough, and compels her to enter the

house and make herself useful.

Believing Hansel to be asleep, she turns to the oven, and kindles the

fire, then breaking into wild glee she seizes a broom and rides on it

round the house singing, Gretel all the while observing her keenly.

Tired with her exertions the witch awakes Hansel and bids him

show his finger, at which command Hansel stretches out a small piece of

wood. Seeing him so thin, the witch calls for more food and while she

turns her back, Gretel quickly takes up the juniper bough, and speaking

the formula, disenchants her brother. Meanwhile the witch turning to

the oven, tells Gretel, to creep into it, in order to see, if the

honey-cakes are ready, but the little girl, affecting stupidity begs

her, to show, how she is to get in. The witch impatiently bends

forward and at the same moment Gretel assisted by Hansel, who has

escaped from his prison pushes her into the hot oven and slams the iron

door.--The wicked witch burns to ashes, while the oven cracks and roars

and finally falls to pieces. With astonishment the brother and sister

see a long row of children, from whom the honey-crust has fallen off,

standing stiff and stark. Gretel tenderly caresses one of them, who

opens his eyes and smiles. She now touches them all, and Hansel,

seizing the juniper bough works the charm and recalls them to new life.

The cake-children thank them warmly, and they all proceed to inspect

the treasures of the house, when Hansel hears their parents calling

them. Great is the joy of father and mother at finding their

beloved-ones safe and in the possession of a sweet little house. The

old sorceress is drawn out of the ruins of the oven in form of an

immense honey-cake, whereupon they all thank Heaven for having so

visibly helped and protected them.