This is Scottish Ballet’s Artistic Director Christopher Hampson’s first production for the company and it is a delight. Many people are familiar with Humperdinck’s opera, with its richly melodic and beautiful score, and a great deal of that music, together with some from his opera Sleeping Beauty, is used here, with ingenious dance movement replacing the vocals.
The sets are terrific, with slick changes, ranging from the cottage with its oversized furniture, and the menacing cavernous forest, to the witch’s house complete with a table full of sweet goodies and an oven being prepared for its latest victim, in this case Hansel.
The comic and amorous Mother and Father are well-observed, and the Sandman particularly delights as a colourful benign influence compared to the witch.
In the opera the witch makes an appearance in the final act, but in Scottish Ballet’s production she has three incarnations; firstly as a trendy but aloof teacher, then as a seductive moon goddess, and finally as a flea-ridden, cigarette-smoking hag. Eve Mutso, an Estonian who has been with the company over 10 years, is splendid in each of her roles, and especially as the grotesque witch. She has three racy characters assisting her in her schemes, the Ravens, and they are sensational.
The dominant Gretel and the teddy-bear clutching Hansel squabble and tease one another, until they realise that they have to unite against the witch, and they make the most of the inventive choreography.
It is tremendous that the locally recruited children are given the opportunity to act and dance with such a talented ensemble.
This is a vivid, sparkling, and witty show, and is highly recommended.