The finest recording of this under-appreciated masterpiece.
D. R. Schryer | Poquoson, VA United States | 09/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hansel and Gretel is generally regarded as a children's opera; but, in fact, it is a masterpiece to be enjoyed by listeners of all ages. Humperdinck was heavily influenced by Wagner and in Hansel and Gretel he produced an opera in the Wagnerian style but more accessible than Wagner's operas in length and humanity. This is one of the few operas ever written which is beautiful from beginning to end. Furthermore, no finer performance of this wonderful opera has ever been recorded. The cast is superb. Helen Donath is a suitably girlish Gretel and Anna Moffo suprises with a beautifully-sung, convincing portrayal of Hansel. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig are superb as the father and the witch, respectively. Charlotte Berthold, as the mother, is not quite up to the high standards of the other principals but she is more than adequate. Even the small roles of sandman and the dew fairy are superbly sung by Arlene Auger and Lucia Popp. The conducting by Kurt Eichhorn is just right. This is one of the most oustanding opera recordings I've heard to date. Please do yourself a favor and buy it while its still abvailable. And listen to it as the great masterpiece that it is, rather than passing it off as only for children."
A very happy birthday to me... and perhaps to you too...
Andre | Twin Cities, MN | 06/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Armed with the advice of the people here, and looking at the all-star line up, I had this CD purchased for me on my birthday. Wow. I'm certainly happy, if not ecstatic about this recording. I have so much to say, yet much of it has already been said thanks to the helpful reviewers before me. To start off, the two principles, Helen Donath's beautifully girlish Gretel and Anna Moffo's smart and dapper Hänsel are just perfect. Other recordings of this opera generally use a lyric soprano and mezzo-soprano for these roles and seem a little weighty in contrast to this one. I believe chosing a light lyric soprano(Donath) and a lyric soprano with formidable weight at the lower register(Moffo) is a wonderful choice for this opera, especially when it comes to the scenes with these two characters with the witch. The lighter voices provide a good contrast to the mezzo-soprano of the witch, and one easily sees the difference in ages of the characters just by the voice, making the experience all that more real. Plus, I feel that the two(Donath, Moffo) compliment each other tremendously well and seem to work together fantastically.The father and mother are played well, using Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau(one of my favorite baritones who although has done many opera roles, found his niche in the world of Lieder) and Charlotte Berthold, an accomplished mezzo. Both play their parts convincingly portraying the strict yet negligent parents. Lucia Popp and Arleen Augér play the fairies as though they were. But perhaps the unbelievable convincing comes most from Christa Ludwig's Knusperhexe(witch). I agree with all the other reviewers, so no more comments are needed about her interpretation of the role, she does it unquestionably well, lipsmacking and cackling all the while, ready to eat those children right up.It's the extras that also make this recording so great: the sound effects, over-all sound setup, and good German. All of the sound engineering is tastefully done, including clapping for the Dancing duet "Bruderchen, komm, tanz' mit mir...", actually hearing Peter coming closer to his hut as he sings drunkily "Rallalala, rallalala...", echoes in track 10 of the first CD, and especially making the witch seem all that much spookier and entrancing when she sings "Hocus Pocus" in her aria "Halt!" You can almost feel the spell working on yourself as you're mesmerized by her wicked demands. The overall sound is setup so that generally one hears the singers as if they were right there, and creates an intimate atmosphere, as if you're dreaming this story yourself. But then also one get's the sense of depth and can sense when people are near or far. It's all engineered quite well and I think this only adds to this CD. And as for the German, it's excellently done, with consonants easily heard everywhere. With all the people in the cast with German backgrounds, it's no wonder the accents and diction are so superb.Mr. Eichhorn does an excellent job directing the Munich Radio Orchestra and the Boys Choir. He handles the score somewhat quicker and more appropriately than do other conductors and creates an overall pleasing version of this beautiful opera. I can't really find anything to complain about in this recording(especially the price!), and am very glad to have it in my collection(this is why I believe it is THE BEST out there to date). Thanks to RCA for re-releasing this favorite and allowing people to disappear back into the dreams of childhood again. I hope I've been enlightening. Enjoy"
The finest opera recording ever made.
Harry Browne | Nashville, TN | 08/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As one who has owned hundreds of complete operas on LP and CD, I believe this is probably the most perfect opera recording ever made. It is an ideal gift for either the most jaded opera-lover or the absolute beginner. As other reviewers have said, this is an under-rated opera -- one of the most tuneful ever written, and yet employing the most sophisticated orchestration. And this recording is one of those rare occasions when a "dream team" of singers is assembled to comprise the perfect, most appropriate cast. I find it hard to imagine that you could ever regret buying this set."
A Magical Recording
Harry Browne | 07/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Hansel and Gretel" is one of the most accessibleoperas in the repertoire. The music ranges from simple folk-inspiredtunes to lush orchestral tidal waves of sound. It is not a "children's opera" as some would have us believe: there is real terror and Freudian hysteria in the forest scene, the parents are painted as loving yet flawed people (the father is probably an alcoholic and, if one takes it to the next level, a possible wife-beater -- read the libretto), and the witch, if played correctly, can be truly frightening. This recording does justice to all those elements of the opera. Kurt Eichorn directs a beautifully played reading with lots of magic and wonder. Helen Donath is a Gretel of one's dreams: sweet, innocent, and girlish without a trace of treacle. Anna Moffo is a good Hansel, but lacks the firmness and rich tone (not to mention vocal contrast) that a true mezzo would have brought to the role. Charlotte Berthold balances the mother's harpy-like entrance with tender concern for her family. And Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau plays the father beautifully: a country bumpkin with a twinkle in his eye who also has a darker side. The fairy-tale characters are all beautifully done. Arleen Auger is a luminous Sandman, ethereal and gossamer, while Lucia Popp is a sprightly Dew Fairy with spunk to spare. And finally, there is the marvelous Witch of Christa Ludwig. Simply put, no one on records has done better with this role. She cajoles and cackles, is syrupy and sly, and makes the Witch more than just a silly cartoon villian. This is a woman who presents real danger. From my review, it would be fairly easy to guess that this is both an opera and a recording close to my heart. The one caveat which might deter some listeners is that the voices are balanced far forward of the orchestra. For instance, when Helen Donath begins her "Suse, liebe Suse" song at the start of act one, it is no exageration to say that it sounds like she is there in the room with you. However, I find this only adds to the sweetness and charm of the piece. This is the best recording of "Hansel and Gretel" available. * (Note to the opera novitiate: the composer is definitely NOT Engelbert Humperdinck the Las Vegas crooner.) END"