CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 7, 2000
UI Opera Theater will present popular fairy-tale opera, Hansel and
Gretel, April 28 & 30
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Hansel and Gretel," one of the most familiar
European fairy tales, will be the spring production of the University of Iowa
Opera Theater, in a popular operatic version by late 19th-century German composer
Engelbert Humperdinck. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday, April 28, and
2 p.m. Sunday, April 30, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.
"Hansel and Gretel" will be the first large-scale production to
be directed by Sally Stunkel, who became director of the UI Opera Theater
last fall. Performances will feature the University Symphony under the direction
of William LaRue Jones. Set design is by Margaret Wenk of the UI Performing
Arts Production Unit.
Major roles in the opera will be taken by students in the School of Music.
Additional childrens roles in the opera will be sung by members of the
Childrens Choir of Willowwind School in Iowa City, directed by Nancy
As told by the Brothers Grimm, "Hansel and Gretel" has become one
of the most familiar fairy tales. As most children know, the brother and sister
Hansel and Gretel live deep in the forest. When their mother sends them out
to pick strawberries, they stay too long and lose their way. They are forced
to spend the night deep in the forest. The next day they stumble on the witchs
gingerbread house and almost end up being baked into cookies. Instead, they
are smart enough to foil the witch, and in destroying her they save all the
other children she has stolen over the years.
"Hansel and Gretel" was turned into an opera by Engelbert Humperdinck,
a disciple of Richard Wagner. In 1890 Humperdincks sister sent him some
verses she had written for the Grimm bothers fairy tale, which Humperdinck
began to set in the style of German folk melodies. Encouraged by the success
of these simple songs, Humperdinck decided to write a fairy-tale "Singspiel"
-- a kind of musical comedy with spoken dialog between the musical numbers.
By the time he completed the score, it had grown into a full-fledged operatic
setting, with the folk-style melodies enhanced by a rich orchestral texture.
"Hansel and Gretel" was premiered in Weimar, Germany, on Dec. 23,
1893, with Richard Strauss conducting. It was an immediate hit and has remained
especially popular in Germany, where it is a staple of the holiday season
for most opera companies. The tuneful melodies and charming story have made
"Hansel and Gretel" popular around the world, and the childrens
evening prayer from Act II has become one of the most familiar and beloved
pieces of classical music.
In the all-student cast, the roles of Hansel and Gretel will be taken by
Ann Cravero and Maria Gimenez. The mother and father will be sung by Virginia
Croskery and Michael Shelledy. Oliver Stoutner will portray the witch. Emeline
Fitzmorris will sing the part of the Sandman, and Stephanie Thorpe will be
the Dew Fairy.
Stunkel was appointed director of UI Opera Theater in the fall of 1999. She
has directed for many American opera companies, including Sacramento Opera,
Tulsa Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Skylight Opera, the Aspen Music Festival,
Kentucky Opera and Four Corners Opera. She has more than 70 productions to
her credit, including straight theater as well as opera. She headed the opera
programs at the former St. Louis Conservatory of Music, the University of
Tennessee and the University of the Pacific in California.
Stunkel has performed both as an opera singer, performing with the Colorado
Springs Opera, Skylight Opera and Baltimore Opera, and as an actor in spoken
plays, having recently portrayed Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie"
and Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter." With more than
15 years of dance training, she has also choreographed several productions.
Known for her expertise in teaching acting to opera singers, Stunkel has
taught in the apprentice programs at the Des Moines Metro Opera, Chatauqua
Opera, the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada and the Aspen Music Festival. She
was a co-founder/director/writer for The Opera Parade and Kinderopera, two
touring educational opera companies for children in Maryland. She is a graduate
of the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, where she received the National
Opera Associations award for best opera for her productions of Gian
Carlo Menottis "The Consul" and Domonick Argentos "Postcard
A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997
as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies.
He replaced James Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more than 40 years,
who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year. Prior to joining the
UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator of the internationally
recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul,
Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors'
Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership
and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been
selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota , a music honorary society.
He has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St.
Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and
other orchestras around the world.
Tickets for "Hansel and Gretel" are $15, $10 and $8 ($9, $7 and
$5 for senior citizens, UI students and youth) from the Hancher Auditorium
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturdays. From the local calling area dial 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free,
1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard
or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university
bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should
dial (319) 335-1158. This line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing
impairment who use that technology.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.