The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 19, 2012

Opera features classic fairy tale of 'Hansel and Gretel'

By Zech Wheeler
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — A little bit of everything can be found in the latest opera produced by Heartland Opera Theatre, including dancers from a Webb City ballet school, sets built by theater instructors from Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University and cast members from several states.

“It’s such a unique opportunity for Joplin to have a fully staged, fully orchestrated opera available so inexpensively,” said Nicholas Gilmore, artistic director for Heartland Opera Theatre. “It’s $25 at the door for a full opera ticket. I don’t know if you can get that anywhere.”

Heartland Opera Theatre will present the adaptation of the classic fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” at Taylor Performing Arts Centre on the Missouri Southern State University campus. The opera is the best known work of its legendary composer, Englebert Humperdinck. It’s been tailored to be as accessible as possible, Gilmore said.

A big reason for the accessibility is the opera’s English translation of a classic fairy tale that most hear when they are children.

“It’s an accessible story,” said Carol Feiertag, production director. “A lot of people have sort of a fear of opera and think that it’s snooty and snotty and in foreign languages and hard to understand. This is a very straightforward story that a lot of us know already, and it’s a good piece to do for the audience.”

Feiertag said that Gilmore chose “Hansel and Gretel” because of its light-hearted tone in comparison to the source material, written by the Grimm Brothers. Details such as the parent’s desire to be rid of their children have been omitted, though the basic principles of the story remain the same.

Gilmore assembled a cast of characters known near and far. The cast features Abigail Whittle, an opera performance graduate student from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, as Gretel, and Danielle Rohr, who recently returned from a year in Germany, as Hansel.

Cast members such as Marvin Murphee and Kierstin Bible Ñ who play Hansel and Gretel’s father and mother Ñ are area locals with extensive repertoires, hailing from Springfield and Bella Vista, Ark, respectively.

“Hansel and Gretel” also features a ballet troupe from Pinocchio School of Dance, guided by Angela Lowe, and a children’s choir, led by MSSU alumnus Autumn Malcolm.

Want to go?

The Heartland Opera Theatre will present “Hansel and Gretel” in English on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. and on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Taylor Performing Arts Center at Missouri Southern. Tickets cost $25 at the door, $20 in advance, and $10 for students. Details: 417-782-4953.