It’s been nearly two years since the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has been allowed to perform live.
And even now, restrictions meant only a handful of socially distanced people, could watch director Stephen Lawless’s fantastic operatic performance of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel.
But boy what a show for the privileged few. With students from across the conservatoire’s board, the performance, all in German, with English subtitles, was polished and faultless in every area.
The Yuletide production was a masterclass, from the front screen designed by Adrian Linford, which showed a German Christmas card scene with Glasgow touches, to the excellent orchestra, conducted by the very swish Adam Hickox.
The show begins with a lovely ensemble of sweet voices disguised as the Salvation Army and the opening and ending scenes feature a beggar trying to make some Christmas cheer, giving a little twist to the story as the curtain closes
Nearby, inside a depressing flat with empty cupboards and fridge, a family is trying to make ends meet, with the mother (Amy Strachan) a stressed-out NHS worker, struggling to feed her children Hänsel (Ascelina Klee) and Gretel (Elena Garrido Madrona) and father (Toki Hamano) out on the streets, dressed as Father Christmas, trying to drum up some pennies.
Meanwhile the wicked witch, aka tenor Cameron Mitchell, complete with a pink wig and an ample bosom, is disguised as TV chef Rosina Leckermaul, promoting her new book Kochen mit Kindren, which translated means Cooking with Children and is a clue to modern twist to the story and which, even has warnings of mild cannibalism as you enter the theatre!
The fantastic chemistry between Hänsel and Gretel and the hilarious Rosina keeps the audience on its toes and as you would expect, the singing is first class.
Scottish soprano Karla Grant as The Sandman presides over the nativity scene and along with Marie Cayeux, the Dew Fairy, brings an element of Glasgow into the performance, with the nativity depicting the usual George Square offering and the Dew Fairy, swopping a shoe for one of the city’s infamous traffic cones.
The scenery really brings the modern update to life and the scene where the witch gets her comeuppance via a roasting tray and a very hot oven, is a scream.
With such talent on show, the opera, which also features the women’s chorus in the final act, singing from the theatre circle, is a real breath of fresh air and a welcome return. Let’s hope it is the new “norm”!
For more information on what’s on at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, please visit: www.rcs.ac.uk
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.
Photographs by Robert McFadzean courtesy of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland