23 December 1893

The opera Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck is first performed.

Hansel and Gretel is an opera by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as a Märchenoper. The libretto was written by Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette, based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel“. It is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being the “Abendsegen”.

Hansel-und-Gretel 680The idea for the opera was proposed to Humperdinck by his sister, who approached him about writing music for songs that she had written for her children for Christmas based on “Hansel and Gretel”. After several revisions, the musical sketches and the songs were turned into a full-scale opera.

Humperdinck composed Hansel and Gretel in Frankfurt in 1891 and 1892. The opera was first performed in Hoftheater in Weimar on December 23rd 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss. It has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time.

Hansel and Gretel was first conducted in Weimar by Richard Strauss in 1893, followed by its Hamburg premiere on September 25th, 1894, conducted by Gustav Mahler. Its first performance outside Germany was in Basel, Switzerland, on November 16th 1894. The first performance in England was in London on December 26th, 1894, at Daly’s Theatre and its first United States performance was on October 8th, 1895 in New York. The first performance in Australia was on April 6th, 1907, at the Princess’s Theatre, Melbourne.

Hansel and Gretel

In English-speaking countries Hansel and Gretel is most often performed in English. The longtime standard English translation was by Constance Bache. In the United States the opera was often performed in a translation by Norman Kelley written for the Metropolitan Opera‘s 1967 production by Nathaniel Merrill and Robert O’Hearn. In 1987 a darkly comic new production with English translation by David Pountney was created for the English National Opera in London. Since 2007, the Met has performed the work in a production, using Pountney’s translation, originally created for the Welsh National Opera.