Resonance Works to present "innovative" take on Hansel and Gretel | Pittsburgh City Paper

Resonance Works to present "innovative" take on Hansel and Gretel

click to enlarge Resonance Works to present "innovative" take on Hansel and Gretel
Image: Courtesy of Resonance Works
Hansel and Gretel by Opera Ithaca, featuring the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus and the Resonance Chamber Orchestra
The tale of Hansel and Gretel has become a familiar one, played out again and again in various forms of media. Now, a Pittsburgh performing arts company will present a new take on the tale with an upcoming film premiere.

Resonance Works will introduce local audiences to a filmed adaptation of 19th-century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel. Described as family-friendly, the work is the result of collaboration between Opera Ithaca and a cast of opera artists from around the country, along with the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus and the Resonance Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Resonance Works artistic and general director Maria Sensi Sellner.

The film will screen during a live event on Sat., Dec. 18 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, and stream online beginning Sun., Dec. 19.

A press release describes the production as an “innovative reimagining” of the original show, as siblings Hansel and Gretel become lost in the woods and stumble upon the set of a celebrity pastry chef’s cooking show, where they are invited to be the guest stars and main ingredients.

Hansel and Gretel is a piece that conjures so much for me — wide-eyed wonder, fear, the joy of being able to see your family again. This production, which has been so collaborative, really reflects the values represented in the opera,” says Ben Robinson, who directed the film, in a press release.

While Robinson serves as artistic director of both Opera Ithaca and the Raylynmor Opera in New Hampshire, he has also worked in Pittsburgh, performing with Pittsburgh Festival Opera and in a number of Resonance Works’ productions.

“Ben has always been full of amazing ideas and is a joy to work with, so when he proposed this film partnership, it was a no-brainer for us,” says Sellner. “Bringing this beloved opera to film allows us to approach it in a different and fresh way, not merely as an alternative to a live staged production, and to create something together that can be enjoyed by a wider audience.”

The film also offered an opportunity for Resonance Works to collaborate with the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. The two groups had previously joined forces for the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan’s Gloria in 2017.

“Our young singers have been fortunate to view this creative process through an innovative lens, performing a delightful, fresh libretto, and collaborating virtually with opera singers from around the world," says Pittsburgh Youth Chorus artistic director Shawn Funk.

In addition to the film screening, the premiere celebration will feature live performances by the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus and members of the Resonance Chamber Orchestra.

Sellner believes the film adds a new twist to the usual festive offerings by Resonance Works. The film also marks the company's dedication to doing live events since it returned to in-person performances in November with Back to the Future, a program featuring the Pittsburgh premieres of works by what Resonance described as "today’s most significant living composers." 

Even so, Resonance states that masks will be required for all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, per KST's COVID-19 safety measures. All performers will also be masked. Proof of vaccine is not required for entry.

“It has been our tradition to present a varied mosaic of music for the holiday season, and this year is no exception,” says Sellner. “I’m thrilled that we can once again share live music with our Pittsburgh community while continuing to create opportunities for a wider audience to experience opera through our virtual platform.”

Resonance Works presents Hansel and Gretel. 3 p.m. Sat., Dec. 18. Kelly Strayhorn Theater. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $15-30.