Perhaps the most popular operatic fairy tale of them all, Hansel and Gretel is also one of the darkest. From a poor home in which hunger is an ever-present threat, brother and sister escape to the world of the forest, both idyllic and dangerous. There, they encounter supernatural forces such as the Sandman, the Dew Fairy and, most frightening of all, the Witch.
Hansel & Gretel was part of a three-opera ‘Fairytale Season’ by Opera North. We reset the action to the modern day, with Hansel and Gretel playing with a camera feed as they await the return of their mother and father. Through this camera feed, they use props to re-create the forest and the gingerbread cottage, which are then projected on all five surfaces of their kitchen environment, turning the whole space into a forest of knock-off christmas trees, or a fridge full of sweets.
We devised and constructed the wireless camera systems, and worked closely with the ON props department to built all the small-scale props required to create the larger environments, and with the cast in rehearsals to direct camera moves, arrange shots and built the language of the piece.
Photos by Mesmer and Robert Workman
The unquestioned star of Dick's production, though, is Ian William Galloway. His video designs against Giles Cadle's shabby tenement room (because, spoiler alert, we never entirely leave it) segue from live filming to hi-tech magic in ways it's better not to explain. I was moved, amused and amazed by his sleight of hand and, in Humperdinck's 'dream pantomime', reduced to tears (#1) by his illustration of the children's remembered happiness.
The technical brilliance of Ian William Galloway’s video design is central to the concept’s success. But it never overwhelms a set of musical performances that are equally fresh and engaging.
The question is, how is [the video] used? And the answer here is: about as intelligently as I’ve seen on the British stage.... I can’t remember the last time I saw something function so perfectly on at least two level at once.