Hansel and Gretel, King's Lynn

Pocket-sized they may be but, in terms of quality of performance at King's Lynn Arts Centre, the English Pocket Size Opera Company were much larger.

Pocket-sized they may be but, in terms of quality of performance at King's Lynn Arts Centre, the English Pocket Size Opera Company were much larger.

The performers were four voices (plus some recorded children's voices) and the piano — it never ceases to amaze me how pianists can cope with the orchestral scores of operas and Richard Pierson was no exception as he conveyed the harmonies and nuances of the original.

The singers were Sandra Rhodes playing three parts, the mother, the dew fairy and the witch; Richard Morrison as the father and the sandman.

The title roles were taken by Jessica Walker as Hansel, not only managing to look like a boy but producing also the sound of a boy's treble voice; Gretel was taken by Charlotte Kinder.

All characterisations were outstanding as was the diction, particularly the “children” who also conveyed to perfection the behaviour of mischievous youngsters. A tuneful score was realised with outstanding singing, notably in the children's prayer duet where the voices blended most touchingly. Richard Morrison bought a rich baritone to the role of the father, contrasting with his sotto voce as the sandman.

In the prayer duet the imaginative production was at its most poignant as the dew fairy and sandman conveyed the grieving parents of children previously ensnared by the witch, by surrounding Hansel and Gretel with children's shoes ranging in size from baby's first to teens.

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The limited space was utilised to the full, including having characters entering through the auditorium with moving trees of the forest adding to the effects.

This was a most satisfying performance of a work that makes a good introduction to opera for those of all ages with its underlying theme of good triumphant over evil.

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