Friday, January 04, 2008

Hansel And Gretel

photo: Ken Howard

The Met's new, 1930's-set production of Hansel And Gretel (imported from the Welsh National Opera) is extraordinarily grim and more than a little perverse: it never strays far from the kitchen. Even the haunted woods of the story are reimagined as a dining room, where Hansel and Gretel dream of being rescued not by a chorus of angels but by chefs. Driving home the theme of hunger with sledgehammer delicacy, the production feels severe and joyless: it even denies us a gingerbread house, instead substituting a single cake on a mechanical trolley. Does the Met really believe that this gruesome production (which also features Mom toying with a suicidal overdose before flushing her pills down the kitchen drain) will become a holiday staple for families? I can't imagine that anyone under the age of twenty will appreciate that the Witch resembles Julia Child (the production's one bit of mischievous levity) and I can't imagine that children will know what to make of Gretel sticking her fingers in batter and painting a Hitler moustache on Hansel. I can't imagine what any reasonable adult is meant to make of it either.

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