Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Reviewed on Mon 24 Jun, 2013

Engelbert Humperdinck's enchanting fairy-tale opera drew fulsome praise from Richard Strauss, who, after conducting the 1893 Weimar world premiere, hailed it as “a masterpiece of the highest quality ... all of it original, new, and so authentically German”. In his commanding 1978 version for Decca, Sir Georg Solti adopts an unapologetically Wagnerian approach, and his cast has strength in depth. Mezzo Brigitte Fassbaender and soprano Lucia Popp seem ideally matched in the brother and sister lead roles, Walter Berry is a hugely personable Father, and Anny Schlemm has a whale of a time in the role of the Witch (though some have found her comic portrayal decidedly over the top). There's also touch of luxury in the recruitment of Norma Burrowes, Edita Gruberova and the Vienna Boys' Choir as (respectively) the Sandman, Dew Fairy and gingerbread children. Solti oversees it all with palpable relish and considerable dramatic flair, drawing the most opulent sounds from the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Decca engineers provide a spectacularly vivid recording. Great fun – and great value.
–Andrew Achenbach