Christmas Celebration - Nutcracker, Hansel und Gretel / Kessels, Davis, ROH Covent Garden Orchestra

Release Date: 10/30/2012
Label: Opus Arte
Catalog Number: OA 1090BD
Number of Discs: 3

Physical Format:

In Stock
Works on This Recording
1. Nutcracker, Op. 71 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Koen Kessels
Period: Romantic
Written: 1891-1892 ; Russia
2. Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck
Performer: Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Anja Silja (Soprano), Diana Damrau (Soprano), Anita Watson (Voice), Pumeza Matshikiza (Soprano), Elizabeth Connell (Soprano), Thomas Allen (Baritone)
Conductor: Sir Colin Davis
Period: Romantic
Written: 1893 ; Germany
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Settle down and enjoy Christmas fun and fantasy for all the family with these two magical classics from the Royal Opera House. All-time ballet favourite The Nutcracker comes to life in this stunning and captivating production a real delight for adults mand children alike. This is coupled with a spectacular and unforgettable performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Imaginatively staged and with a new and original interpretation, this classic fairy tale provides the ideal seasonal treat.

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

The Sugar Plum Fairy – Miyako Yoshida
Nephew / Nutcracker – Ricardo Cervera
The Prince – Steven McRae
Drosselmeyer – Gary Avis
Clara – Iohna Loots

The Royal Ballet
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Koen Kessels, conductor

Peter Wright, choreographer and director
(after Lev Ivanov)

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, November and December 2009

- Cast gallery
- Rehearsing at White Lodge
- Peter Wright tells the story of The Nutcracker

Engelbert Humperdinck

Hansel – Angelika Kirchschlager
Gretel – Diana Damrau
Gertrud – Elizabeth Connell
Peter – Thomas Allen
Witch – Anja Silja
Sandman – Pumeza Matshikiza

Dew Fairy – Anita Watson

Tiffin Boys’ Choir and Children’s Chorus
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Colin Davis, conductor

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, stage directors

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, on 12 and 16 December 2008

- Illustrated synopsis and animated cast gallery
- Interview with Colin Davis
- Fairytales feature
- Cinema trailer


Picture format: NTSC 16:9 Sound format: LPCM Stereo 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish (both works) / Italian
(Hansel and Gretel only)
Running time: 265 mins
No. of DVDs: 3

Review of Hansel and Gretel:

Set (by Christian Fenouillat) and costumed (by Agostino Cavalca) in the recent past (the 1970s or '80s), Covent Garden's new production of this opera contains the requisite wit, charm, and ghastliness to make it work wonderfully. The first act is set in the kids' small, crooked bedroom; there's barely any room for them to romp and their boredom is understandable. The dance is well done, with Gretel gazing at a photo of a ballerina to imitate and Hansel more rambunctious. The next scene's forest setting is very effective, with projections and lighting adding to the children's sense of dread.

The Yoda-like Sandman in a white suit is adorable, and the dream sequence, in which forest animals--big and gentle--turn the darkening woods into a comfy living room with a fireplace and armchairs, is lovely and touching, with a wistful moment at the end when the children each unwrap a big gift box and find a half sandwich inside, which they proceed to eat. The Dew Fairy looks vaguely like Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz.

Once we enter the Witch's kitchen, a tingle goes up the spine. In addition to a very long table, center stage, there are two huge ovens on the right, and at the back of the stage, a huge, glass-doored freezer filled with hanging children. During her ride, she takes one of the kids down, plops him onto her table, slathers him with cream and pops him into the oven. Creepy. At the finale, when the gingerbread kids come back to life and Peter and Gertrude enter, they pull the witch out of the oven and eat her. Hansel and Gretel do not take part--they cower. And can you blame them? It's even creepier--and very effective. Kudos to directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier for creativity and knowing when sentimentality isn't called for.

Musically the performance is just as interesting. Colin Davis manages to lead a production both luxuriant and perky without sacrificing either. He sweeps through the high-Romantic moments and dances through the others; the strange sounds in the forest that spook the kids are indeed spooky.

Starting at the bottom of the voice range we find Thomas Allen's Father, who is so fine an artist--and just a bit drunk as he enters--that for once his "Tra la la la" doesn't seem to go on too long. Elizabeth Connell's Gertrude is grandly formed--she's a big woman with a big voice--and she has great feeling. Angelika Kirchschlager's Hansel is among the best I've heard and seen: wearing overalls and sporting a spiky haircut, we get the ideal of the bored boy, naughty, wanting to be more grown-up, and singing beautifully. Diana Damrau, a plain-Jane Gretel with awkward pigtails, gets along famously with her brother, dancing, playing, being huffy. They work well off one another and their voices blend beautifully. The Sandman and Dew Fairy are lovely.

What can one say about Anja Silja's Witch? Grotesque--she's first seen with her large, prosthetic breasts hanging out, but buttons herself up once she meets the children--and perhaps once elegant but now falling to pieces (think: Grey Gardens), going through her child-murdering routine as if it were another day at the job, her sinisterness all the more potent for lack of trying. The voice is in tatters but you won't mind; this is what witches sound like, you'll think.

This is now the preferred version on DVD: The old Met one with Blegen and Stade is excellent but very traditional; the new Met one with Alice Coote under Vladimir Jurowski sounds wonderful but is sour and wrong-headed directorially; the Solti-led film from 1981 stars the spectacular Gruberova and Fassbaender but is sonically dated. You'll love this new set.

--Robert Levine,
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