Hänsel und Gretel, Glyndebourne, east Sussex
Street Scene, The Young Vic, London

Grimm's fairytale lacks psychological fibre but there is some rather tasty singing and the London Philharmonic plays sweetly

Twice sanitised by the Brothers Grimm, the bloody tale of Hänsel und Gretel was wrapped in musical tinsel by Wagner's lapdog, Engelbert Humperdinck. As delicately scored as a Mendelssohn symphony, and as sentimental as a fairytale's apple-cheeked granny in its treatment of children, the fin de siècle operatic confection that was hailed as a masterpiece by Richard Strauss before its 1893 premiere illustrates why Elektra had to be written.

That Laurent Pelly's production is the first to be seen at Glyndebourne is hardly surprising. There's nothing like infanticide to put you off your picnic. We all know bad mothers exist. We all know that maternal hatred, like love, is commonly expressed through food. But this is no Freudian reading. Instead, Pelly has produced an eco-friendly, de haut en bas entertainment to make the patrons glad that they can afford to buy organic vegetables and have switched to hemp bags for their weekly trip to the farmers' market, and especially glad that their children resemble the slender youngsters in the Act II pantomime and not the fat-suited phalanx of Augustus Gloops that Hänsel (Jennifer Holloway) and his sister (Adriana Kucerova) rescue from the Witch's hot-pink hypermarché.

Tut-tutting about greed in Glyndebourne is a little ironic. Still, the tooth-rotting, sky-scraping, shrink-wrapped stack of acid-bright fizzy drinks, salty snacks and glucose goodies (designed by Barbara de Limburg Stirum) that stands for the gingerbread house is an arresting image. Another is a forest strewn with the wind-blown carrier bags colloquially known as "witches' knickers". Alas, we don't get to see the knickers worn by this particular Witch (Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke), though he/she sheds his/her skirt-suit and Mrs Slocombe wig to reveal a sagging bra, balding pate and hirsute belly. Yes, ugly equals bad. Or at least feckless. For Mother (Irmgard Vilsmaier) wears a grimy apron, Father (Klaus Kuttler) a greasy vest, and the family home is a cardboard box.

What Pelly's staging lacks in psychological fibre, it makes up for in energy. The Hexenritt shadow-play is amusing, and Holloway and Kucerova's double-jointed hyperactivity and clear, sunny voices demonstrate again how cannily Glyndebourne casts young singers. Though Ablinger-Sperrhacke's characterisation is flat, the Sandman (Amy Freston) and Dew Fairy (Malin Christensson) shimmer.

In the pit, Kazushi Ono deftly separates Humperdinck's gleaming strands of sugared melody, drawing a toothsome performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Kuttler's dope of a dad is handsomely sung, and Vilsmaier's dark, thrilling mezzo made me long to hear her in a production where Mother and Witch are sung by the same performer. With a few adjustments she could do so here, making Pelly's prim fairy tale a far more subversive and dangerous treat.

The missing link between Porgy and Bess and West Side Story, Kurt Weill's American opera Street Scene is a stylistic supermarket-sweep. Puccini collides with Louis Jordan, Wagner with the blues, women's movies with Woyzeck as the residents of one Manhattan tenement contend with poverty, infidelity, delinquency, alcoholism, unrequited love, a heatwave, a murder, a small dog and a teething baby. Co-produced by The Opera Group and The Young Vic, this was a touching, humane show with stand-out performances from Andrew Slater (Mr Maurrant) and George Longworth (Willie Maurrant). Sadly, John Fulljames's well-paced direction couldn't conceal the fact that although there are some great numbers in Street Scene ("Somebody's gonna be so handsome", "Moon-faced, Starry-eyed") and some great women's roles (Elena Ferrari's lonely Mrs Maurrant, Charlotte Page's pinched Mrs Jones, Kate Nelson's sluttish Mae, Simone Sauphanor's guileless Mrs Fiorentino), the score stumbles towards its gloopy dénouement.

After Weill's schmaltz and Humperdinck's candyfloss, it was a relief to turn to Messaien's celestial ecstasy at the BBC Proms. But that's another story, and will have to wait for next week.



'Hänsel und Gretel' (01273 813813) to 29 Aug

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices