Hänsel und Gretel

Synopsis

Read the synopsis for Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel

Act I

The broom-maker’s house

Hänsel and Gretel are doing chores. Both are bored and hungry, and to cheer themselves up they start to dance. Their games are interrupted by their Mother, who is angry to find them playing instead of working. In her anger she knocks over the milk jug, losing what was to have been supper. She sends them into the forest to gather strawberries instead. Wearied by their precarious existence, she sinks into a chair, only to be woken by the return of her husband. She is irritated to find him tipsy, but calms down when he produces a sack full of food. When he enquires after Hänsel and Gretel, he is alarmed to hear they are in the forest: he warns of the Witch who lives there, and both parents set out to look for the children.

Act II

The wood

Hansel and Gretel happily gather and eat strawberries. When night falls they realize they are lost, and are frightened by the mysterious shapes in the mist. But a Sandman appears and settles them. They say their evening prayers, and go to sleep. The mist around them turns to clouds from which angels appear, who guard the children from harm.

Act III

The Witch’s house

At dawn the Dew Fairy comes to wake Hänsel and Gretel. They are excited to see a house not far away, but when they begin to nibble at it, the Witch emerges and captures them, casting a spell. She puts Hänsel in a cage, telling Gretel that her brother needs fattening. She releases Gretel with a spell, in order that the girl may help her with the oven. But Gretel uses the spell to free Hänsel, and as the Witch demonstrates to Gretel how to check the oven, the children push her into it. As the Witch dies, the fence of people is transformed back into motionless children. Hänsel invokes the formula for breaking the spell, and the children jump up and thank Hänsel and Gretel for saving them. The Mother and Father appear, and the family is reunited.

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