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  • Linda Baker, Acting Co-Principal/Bass Clarinet

Hansel and Gretel: Creepier in the Forest?

This pandemic year (actually a year and counting) has created situations in which most of us never imagined we would find ourselves. It began with the abrupt cancellation of our Ring Cycle. Suddenly there was nothing. No rehearsals, no performances, no colleagues, and most of all, no audiences. As we all learned more about this new COVID world and vaccinations became available, we began to emerge gradually from our forced exile and dip our collective toes into these uncharted waters.

Projects began to take shape, first online-only, then in a parking garage. With an audience, yes, but an audience shut in the safety of their cars. It wasn't until our "Hansel and Gretel in the Park" that we were finally able to perform for an actual audience. We were able to play alongside our colleagues without being forced to sit unnaturally far away from one another. We could hear the squeals of delighted children and the applause of appreciative adults. Though masks concealed the smiles (theirs and ours), we all knew they were there.

This particular performance venue was an ideal setting for this story. Hansel and Gretel were lost in Walking Stick Woods. The audience moved from one scene to the next, shepherded by broomstick-carrying guides (a nod to Hansel and Gretel's broom seller father). The singers were all wonderful, and the sets and costumes were whimsical.

Of course, there were challenges to playing opera in the woods. The woods are the woods after all. Not-so-gentle breezes ruffled our music and local wildlife was always around. Now and then, a deer would wander by, thoroughly unimpressed by the proceedings, and I am still astonished by both the quantity and variety of insect life in this forest. We were visited by crawling, flying, and jumping bugs in every imaginable shape, size, and color.

Just as Hansel and Gretel emerged from the woods safely home again, opera is finding its way out of the pandemic "woods" and back into live performances again. It's great to be back.

John Concepcion, tenor, is quite fetching as the Witch in this production of 'Hansel and Gretel in the Woods'. I truly want those boots.

Musicians in the woods.

Walt Preucil (cello) and Lew Kirk (bassoon) during a break, setting up this dad joke: What do you do if you're attacked by a group of clowns? Go for the juggler.

View of the audience from one of the conductors' keyboards/podiums.

"My three favorite operas are Samson and Doelila, FawnGiovanni, and Deer Rosenkavalier.

And who doesn't love the aria 'Oh Mio Bambi Caro'?"

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