Friday, April 25, 2014

Guanajuato Performances: Hansel and Gretel; Cri-Cri

If you're a child at heart and haven't yet been to Hansel and Gretel at the Juarez, tonight, Friday the 25, is the only chance left to see this exhilarating local performance of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera, first presented in Weimar, Germany in 1893 with Richard Strauss conducting. By the way, the composer's sister was wrote the libretto, not Herr H.

As if the much loved, well-paced opera isn't enough, many of Guanajuato's finest bring the opera to life, giving the event a special fillip for the audience (who fill the main floor and the first two balconies) and have come to watch people they know bring the spectacle to life..

What a lot of coordination putting on an opera takes! With Kate Burt as the general and stage director, the city's fine singer-actors bring out the universal appeal of  the opera, so much so that I was startled when finally the cookies on the witch's house materialize as children dressed in traditional Mexican clothes!   

Opera is theatre saturated with music. Putting on Hansel and Gretel to life has meant skillful casting, set design (and construction), costumes, lighting, super-titles, dance, instrumental music and whatever else I am leaving out, including finances and poster design. With hours of planning and effort, Kate and her cohort manage to get it all to work, although due to the design of the Juarez, I found the supertitles hard to see from my seat 3/4 of the way back in the luneta.

The brother and sister were such convincing twelve-year-olds that I forgot two skilled women were in the roles, always in character as they sang and acted. I was delighted when a "fire" blazed in the witch's oven, with the contrast between the witch's abode, an embodiment of any child's fantasy and the simple house where the children lived. I could even see a menacing wolf and hawk on the forest backdrop.

With Christian Gohmer, conductor of the Sonora Symphony, in Guanajuato to coordinate and conduct the music, and many well-known local musicians in the orchestra pit, who can ask for anything more?
Well, there is always more. Last weekend at Casa Cuatro, parents and children (in fact, unaccompanied adults, too) were treated to the songs of Cri-Cri, a favorite for three generations of Mexican children.
Believe me, the singing and clapping that took place while the Cuarteto Academico played the songs made me wish my twin grandchildren were sitting on either side. The biggest sing-along hits: El Raton Vaquero (The Cowboy Mouse) and La Marcha de las Letras (Alphabet March).