Local theatre company brings classic tales to the Englert stage this weekend

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Hansel & Gretel, The Impresario

Englert Theatre — Friday and Saturday, May 29-30

Hansel & Gretel
Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909

Old Capitol Opera is back with a packed summer season. First up is a weekend perfect for people who are curious about opera, but hesitant to devote several hours to “trying it out.” For two days in May, audiences can come to the Englert Theatre to see two different operas — each of them shorter than the time it takes to go grocery shopping for a weekend barbecue.

Parents who want to introduce their children to opera can do no better than Hansel & Gretel. Engelbert Humperdinck wrote the original in 1893 after his sister asked him to help her write Christmas songs for her children. This version is condensed to one hour, featuring a cast of adult and child singers.

Later in the evening is an update of Mozart’s opera The Impresario. This is a comic tale of a theatre company that hires two actresses who end up competing for the coveted lead role. Iowa City writer Franklyn Tomas updates the opera to a modern setting, pares it down to one hour and four roles, and gives it a new English translation. Even with a makeover, this version still retains the feel of a singspiel, a German form of opera that retained more spoken dialogue than Italian opera.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 177

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