OFFBEAT: Chicago Lyric Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel' a sweet treat

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-12-14T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Chicago Lyric Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel' a sweet treatPhilip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

This is the time of year when gingerbread houses get all the attention.

But what if you lived in a gingerbread house?

In Season 1 of HBO's popular "Sex and the City," in the 1998 episode titled "The Baby Shower," actress Cynthia Nixon's lawyer character Miranda Hobbes defended the actions of the storybook witch from "Hansel and Gretel."

After being hit in the head with a Nerf ball, Miranda says to her friends: "I just realized... maybe it's maturity or the wisdom that comes with age, but the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel' -- she's very misunderstood. I mean, the woman builds her dream house and these brats come along and start eating it."

This week begins the 2012 journey to follow the path of breadcrumbs down the trail of music and fantasy for Chicago Lyric Opera's beautiful telling of "Hansel and Gretel," with scattered performances before it closes Jan. 19.

This is Lyric Opera of Chicago's 58th Season. The internationally renowned company and its home at the historic Civic Opera House has made it a tradition to present Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," a dark and dazzling nod to the Brothers Grimm tale written in 1812.

This is the opera by 19th-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as "a fairy tale opera." It was written by Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, and Humperdinck composed it in Frankfurt in 1891 and 1892 before it was first performed in Weimar Dec. 23, 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss. (It has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time).

"Lyric's season represents a wonderful range of musical and dramatic styles, and an exceptional mixture of well-known and less-often-heard operas," said the company's general director, Anthony Freud.

"Whether you know and love opera or are considering your first experience, Lyric has a great variety of exciting entertainment opportunities for you this season – and they’re not all opera performances."

For the first time, Lyric is offering reduced prices for school-aged children for youngsters (up to age 17) to see regular performances of "Hansel and Gretel," when accompanied by an adult with a regular-priced ticket. Children's tickets will range from $20 to $50.

Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" is a familiar fairytale freshly told in this darkly delicious production starring Elizabeth DeShong, Maria Kanyova, Jill Grove, Julie Makerov (in her debut) and Brian Mulligan. Ward Stare conducts in his Lyric podium debut, though Stare played trombone in the Lyric Opera Orchestra from 2001-07. The Richard Jones production is staged by Eric Einhorn in his debut. John Macfarlane is set and costume designer, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Linda Dobell is the original choreographer.

Tickets for adults start at $34 at or (312) 332-2244, ext. 5600

Lyric's website ( is a comprehensive source of information, with videos about each production introductions by Sir Andrew Davis and Renée Fleming, commentaries by Anthony Freud, and interviews with other artists and directors.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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