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January, 2006 - Nr. 1


The Editor
Der Weihnachtsmann,
Paul Bernhard Berghorn
A Classic is Reborn
"Happy New Year"...
Herwig Wandschneider
Love for Vienna...
K-W & Beyond
An Austrian Event
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
'Between the Years'
Neuschwanstein in the Running
Klum touts Sauerkraut
King Kong's Kretschmann
Choirs Back in Style
Free Noon Hour Concert
Orchestra Toronto Event
German Films Honoured
Opera York Fundraiser
New Films in Washington
Goodbye to Beloved Hippo
Castle Belleview Re-opened

A Classic is Reborn

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister

The festive season has its performance favourites. The Canadian National Ballet Company brings back every year The Nutcracker, just now celebrating 10 years of Kudelka success. Other ballet companies - such as Zing Ballet - also revive this Russian fairy tale annually.

Europeans like to see Humperding’s opera version of the brothers’ Grimm famous tale of Hänsel and Gretel, and Opera York mounted its first version of this charming family pleaser. Once word gets around the company will have to plan a much longer run then the current few days.

Playing and......dancing to forget...





...worried parents

When we attended the audience was packed with children, their parents and grandparents, and also just adults who love Hänsel and Gretel, the composer’s only truly memorable work, which has conquered the young at heart everywhere. The presence of little ones and their spontaneous reactions to the happenings on stage are the most wonderful experience in visiting such a theatre performance. Children immediately get involved and do not hold back their opinions. However, it must be said that none of the commentary was intrusive or disruptive, but it did add to the value of the experience. Not only was a form of literature promoted to young people, but also the much more rare art form of musical theatre, specifically opera. There cannot be anything more educational than this combination.

The story in the opera is not exactly like the tale, but more like a synopsis of the same. Thus it requires a few visual aids to make the plot better understood and to fire the imaginations of the audience. Children like nothing better than to look at pictures, thus cartoons of every description enjoy such a strong success. This is where Opera York still has lots of room to grow and requires a lot more support. Maintaining a strong set building facility that also provides storage for repeat performances while building a repertoire is a vital necessity for long term survival of any theatrical company and is something that tried and trusted set designer Frank Pasian is dreaming about. A revival of Hänsel and Gretel can only be successful if there is more representation of where it all takes place. The set in the first act worked fine, but the forest scene and the "Hexenhaus" made of gingerbread left a bit too much to the imagination, even for adults.

There are dangers the forest





Isn’t there a company or organisation or government place that can provide such a space to build and store props, sets and wardrobe department for this most worthy cause? Opera York truly deserves such assistance from the vast community it serves so admiringly well.

Good and......evil in the forest





Special applause for the fairies in the forest

Having said that I must confess that the German fairy tale spirit is well understood in Canada. Andrew Tees, who we have come to like and appreciate a lot as a baritone with a big voice and big personality on stage, did not only sing the part of the father opposite mezzo soprano Kathryn Knapp’s worried mother Gertrude, but also took on the staging as well. His artistic direction, his first, shows a pleasant sensibility and sensitivity towards the talents of the performers as well as the budget shortcomings. He found original ways to make up for the lack of one thing with another. His sense of humour also worked very well for the production. One might think of the Dew Fairy’s spray bottle for example. Including the Victoria Children’s Theatre Production to participate with a lovely ballet surrounding the sleeping children in the forest was sheer magic. Choreographer Elana Dimitrieva created a charming scene in very little time with her ballet charges. (The Victoria Children’s Theatre Production is putting on Sleeping Beauty January 15 and 16. Call 905-707-7580 for more information or go to And the use of the children from the St. Elizabeth Catholic High School Chorus as the re-awakened gingerbread children was a great idea.

Mr. Tees also managed to highly motivate his singers. Everyone gave a strong performance, including himself. Everyone appeared to have much fun.

Finally they found......the gingerbread house





Mary Loo Fallis was indeed a wicked witch with an even more wicked laugh that made our spine crawl with the threat of pending doom.

I have plans......for you!





Hokus Pokus......bewitched





Let's fatten up......Hänsel





She made us laugh with her magic kitchen spoon wand, and her inability to see the doorway or Hänsel’s thumb, and her ride around the stage on an uncooperative broom. For my taste she just died too quietly. A bit more protest would be much appreciated by the children. After all, she had coming what she deserved; and we like to see her properly punished, not just quietly baked into a gingerbread person. Surely she would have protested and wiggled or screamed a bit, no? last





Jillian Yemen did really well in the "Hosenrolle" of Hänsel. Her mezzo-soprano had a nice edge to it and worked well opposite Arlene Alvarado’s Gretel, who was still very fresh in our memory as a wonderfully sung Pamina in the Magic Flute. Since then she had shed quite a bit of weight, but none of the brilliance of her voice. She and Hänsel were agile and alive on stage, a pleasure to watch as they skipped, hopped, jumped and danced through the plot. Miss Alvarado also shows great acting ability in quieter moments of reflection, thus demonstrating a wide range of emotions.

A happy......reunion





The witch is dead!

Sarah Parker and Andrea Rebello as Sandman and Dew Fairy rounded out a lovely cast. It was all held together beautifully by Alain Trudel as the musical director. Under his baton all the musical talent was just shining. And while the orchestra is still getting used to the new theatre space it is starting to sound better and better every time we hear it.


Next we are looking forward to a Gala Fundraiser February 18, 2006, at the Fame Furlane in Woodbridge. A large collection of Swarovski crystal was donated from an estate for silent auction to Opera York. We can hardly wait to inspect the treasure! Call 905- 763-7853 or email .

We are looking forward to a happy and productive New Year!


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