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Missouri State's Opera Theatre and Symphony Orchestra present "Hansel and Gretel"

For the first time in a couple of decades, MSU Opera Theatre and the MSU Symphony Orchestra collaborate on a performance of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" this Sunday afternoon at Hammons Hall.
Poster design courtesy Missouri State University Opera Theatre
For the first time in a couple of decades, MSU Opera Theatre and the MSU Symphony Orchestra collaborate on a performance of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" on Sunday, Nov. 13 at Hammons Hall.

For the first time in about two decades, the Missouri State University Opera Theatre and the Missouri State Symphony Orchestra will collaborate for a performance of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel."

The production, sung in English and shortened to a length of about an hour, will take place Sunday, Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. Admission is free and open to the public; there are no tickets required. Dr. Ann Marie Daehn, director of the MSU opera program, joined us on “Arts News” to talk about this performance.

“It is the most amazing collaboration,” Daehn said. “Dr. Chris Kelts, my colleague, is just so in love with this piece, and the singers are really enjoying learning from him. And just having that whole orchestra in the pit at [Hammons Hall] is just a really special learning experience, but it's also really making for such beautiful music and theater.”

Considering that Engelbert Humperdinck was a disciple of [19th-century German composer Richard] Wagner, the orchestra for this supposed “children’s opera” is huge, Daehn said.

“It's surprisingly large," she explained. "I just poked my head down there [in the orchestra pit]. I'm not sure the exact count, but I was like, ‘Wow. They just keep going and going,’ and they're far underneath the stage also. So it's a pretty good-sized group. It’s just so lush and beautiful. And it’s just great for our students to be experiencing something so big and robust, but also for perfect for their voices at the age they are.”

Daehn has cut the opera down from somewhere over two hours in length to about 65 minutes.

“It’s kind of a delightful chunk of all of the best of the story," she said. "And you get the best of the music.”

She assured me no characters were lost in this abridgement.

“Every character is there," she said, "and every character is still kind of significant in the same proportion. But we just miss some of the repetitions. And you get all of the orchestral pieces, but maybe not their entire length. It’s like a buffet, where you get just enough to keep your belly full and appease your taste buds, but you don't miss out on anything.”

The performance will run straight through with no intermission. With free admission and no tickets, Dr. Daehn said audience members can “just come and sit wherever you want to sit. [Hammons Hall] is a wide open space. And I've been moving myself around during rehearsal, and there's just not a bad seat in the house. The balance is great. The singers are just — they're so strong. I feel really blessed to have the students we have.

Is the Witch played by a male or female singer? (Character tenors often play the role, though it’s written for a female voice.)

“Yes, we could do either one,” Daehn said, but they went with a female singer.

“Zoe Meyer is her name. She's a sophomore, if you can believe it. And she came up and did her audition. And she just has such a big personality and such a strong instrument. And Dr. Kelts looked at me and I looked at him and he's like, ‘Well, I think you got your witch right there!’ And she's just doing a fantastic job.”

The production features an all-student cast, something Daehn feels very strongly about. “That's one of the things I think is most important at a university. You know, why do a show if you can't cast it from your own students? The idea is that they're there for experience.”

Noting that the MSU opera program is “big on heart and light on money,” Daehn said the stage production is “a very suggestive type of set, but it looks really cute and it does everything we need to do. It gets the job done. You really get a little bit of that Candyland feel when we are there for the Witch’s scene. And the actors make you feel like you're right there.”

For more information, contact Dr. Ann Marie Daehn by email at, or visit the Missouri State University Opera Theatre Facebook page.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.