Inboccallupo-KinderchorInboccallupo-OrchesterConductor: Andreas SchüllerRecording for the Salzburg Marionette Theatre
Premiere: December 12, 2003
The puppets and the equipment were made in the workshops of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre.
In the forest of Ilsenstein lives a witch who catches children and bakes them for her gingerbread house.
The broom-maker’s hut. The parents have gone in search of food, leaving Hansel and Gretel alone, with the task of making brooms and darning stockings. The children are hungry; seeing a jug of milk, they start dancing in anticipation of rice pudding, instead of working.
Their mother comes home, tired and empty-handed, and in her anger at finding the children not hard at work, she upsets the milk. She sends the children into the forest to pick strawberries, saying they are not to come home until the basket is full.
Meanwhile their father returns, merry and laden with food, after a successful day. He is horrified to hear that the children are in the forest, where the witch of Ilsenstein will be lying in wait. Both parents rush off to the forest to look for them.
Gathering strawberries, the children have come near to Ilsenstein. Hansel’s basket is full, and Gretel has woven a garland of flowers. They start to play, and fail to notice that night is falling.
Hansel has forgotten the way home; the friendly forest suddenly seems threatening and filled with danger. The Sandman appears and promises to protect the children, who say their prayers and settle down to sleep.
The Dew Fairy wakes the children.
They are hungry – and what do they see? A little house, made all of gingerbread – just right for breakfast. As they nibble at it, the witch comes out and puts them under a spell. Hansel needs fattening up, but Gretel can be baked and eaten immediately.
The witch tells her to look into the oven to see if the gingerbread is ready, but Gretel pretends not to understand. The witch demonstrates; Gretel pushes her into the oven and slams the door shut.
The oven explodes, and gingerbread children appear, standing stiffly until Hansel breaks the spell on them with the witch’s juniper bush. The gingerbread children thank Hansel and Gretel, who in turn thank their fourteen guardian angels. As they all sing a song making fun of the witch, the parents appear and the family is joyfully reunited.
Hansel and Gretel began for Engelbert Humperdinck on a small scale: his sister, Adelheid Wette, had planned a short fairy-tale play for her children at Christmas, with just a few songs. However, the two siblings became so engrossed in the material that it emerged as a full-scale opera, which was received enthusiastically at its première in 1893 and has remained a fixture in the repertoire.
The work is known primarily for its many passages resembling folk-song. In fact, Humperdinck used only a few familiar folk-songs (e. g. "Suzie, pretty Suzie" or "A little man stands silent in the wood"). Most of the songs now sometimes mistaken for genuine folk-songs were composed by Humperdinck himself (e.g. "Come on, brother, dance with me" or "When at night I go to bed").
These simple melodies are incorporated into Humperdinck's highly expressive soundscape with its colourful instrumentation, which has often brought comparison with Richard Wagner. The influence of Wagner cannot be denied – after all, Humperdinck was his assistant in Bayreuth. In the Salzburg Marionette Theatre production, however, stage director Hinrich Horstkotte sees these musical references as a "side-swipe" at the great master – which is perceptible in the design of the marionettes. The Gingerbread Witch comes in different versions: when she coaxes the children into her house, she has the face of Cosima Wagner; later, wearing a winged helmet, she resembles Richard Wagner himself – and it is in this guise that she lands in the oven.
On the other hand, the faces of Hansel and Gretel's parents, when they come to the rescue, are those of Engelbert Humperdinck and Adelheid Wette. The stage-set, too, is full of allusions: the gingerbread house echoes the architecture of Wagner's Festival Theatre in Bayreuth; at the end, it collapses and is eaten up by all the children.
All these higher-level references may be recognised by the audience, but they are not obtrusive. Horstkotte's production can be understood as an imaginative fairy-tale for all ages, exploiting to the full the many possibilities offered by the Marionette Theatre. The Sandman, on a tightrope, soothes the children when they are frightened by the misty ghosts in the forest; the Gingerbread Witch sweeps wildly through the air, surrounded by dancing broomsticks. Accompanying this wealth of images is a recording made specially for the Salzburg Marionette Theatre by the Berlin opera ensemble Inboccallupo, conducted by Andreas Schüller.
In 1913 the sculptor Anton Aicher founded the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, opening with a performance of Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne. His performances were such a success that in the autumn of that very first year he went on tour. The repertoire was expanded to include children's fairy-tales, with the "Kasperl" (perhaps equivalent to Mr. Punch) as the main figure.
In 1926, Hermann Aicher received the Marionette Theatre from his father Anton as a wedding present, and used his technical knowledge to create a real miniature stage. In collaboration with the Mozarteum Academy, he rehearsed increasingly ambitious operas, and soon the repertoire included Mozart's smaller operas, such as Apollo et Hyacinthus or Der Schauspieldirektor [The Impresario].
During the period 1927–34, the theatre gave guest performances in Hamburg, Vienna and Holland, and visited Istanbul, Sofia and Athens. Moscow and Leningrad followed in 1936, in venues seating 2,500 – which necessitated new, larger marionettes. The special attraction was the marionette of the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova, dancing the "dying swan".
From 1940-44 the Salzburg marionettes were sent to the front. Hermann Aicher was summoned to military service in 1944, and the Theatre was closed. After the end of the war, the marionettes immediately resumed their activities, first of all for the occupying troops. In 1947, they gave the first post-war German-language guest performance in the famous Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. There followed a busy period with tours, guest performances, and new productions including Mozart's five major operas.
In 1971 the present theatre, adapted specifically to the requirements of the marionettes, was opened with Rossini's Barber of Seville.
Hermann Aicher died shortly after his 75th birthday, and his daughter Gretl took over the theatre. The marionettes toured Europe, America and Asia, in New York, Paris, Italy, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan.
In 1991, to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death, Götz Friedrich staged Mozart's Così fan tutte.
1994/95 brought TV and video recordings of all five major Mozart operas, with Sir Peter Ustinov as narrator, and from 1992–97 several productions were staged in co-operation with the Salzburg Landestheater. In 1996, the Salzburg marionettes collaborated with the Salzburg Festival in Carl Maria von Weber's opera Oberon, in the Small Festival Hall.
1998 saw the first collaboration with the Salzburg Easter Festival, in Sergey Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. To mark the 85th anniversary of the Marionette Theatre, the "World of Marionettes" museum was opened in Hohensalzburg Fortress.
In 2001, the theatre premièred the first spoken play for many years, with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This was followed in December 2003 by the première of Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel.
The 2006 Salzburg Festival marked the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth with performances of all 22 operas; Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schauspieldirektor were staged in collaboration with the Marionette Theatre – a collaboration continued in 2007.
The world-famous Broadway musical The Sound of Music was premiered on November 2, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.
In 2010 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre staged Claude Debussy's puppet ballet La boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box). The world-famous pianist Andràs Schiff initiated the project which was premiered at the Ittinger Pfingsttage (Switzerland). 2011 and 2012 The Little Prince
and a short version of The Ring of the Nibelung in cooperation with Salzburg State Theatre were brought on stage.
The death of Gretl Aicher in 2012 marks the end of the Aicher family's ownership after three generations.
2013 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre celebrates its 100th anniversary with the production Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
and Alice in Wonderland.
In 2016, the Austrian UNESCO commission designated the operating technique developed by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre a "most highly developed form of puppet and figure theatre" and declared this sophisticated, fine-tuned method Intangible UNESCO Cultural Heritage (Austrian List). With new productions such as Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven, new scenic approaches are taken and the technique of puppetry is refined.
Since 1913 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre made 270 tours throughout the world.
Since 1971, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre has been housed the historic building at Schwarzstrasse 24
– on the right side of Salzburg's Old Town, between the Landestheater and the International Mozarteum Foundation, and between the River Salzach on the one side and the Mirabell Palace with its world-famous garden on the other.
After it was founded in a studio in the Künstlerhaus in 1913, then moved to the gymnasium of the old Borromäum, and spent ten years in the temporary premises of the Kapitelsaal, the Marionette Theatre settled in Schwarzstrasse 24. This building has its own chequered history: between the Villa Lasser (now the Mozarteum Foundation) and the municipal theatre, Count Arco-Zinneberg's Kaltenhausen brewery had a restaurant and function-rooms built in 1893. The architect was Carl Demel, the master builder Valentin Ceconi. In 1897, the function-rooms were converted into the Hotel Mirabell.
Until 1968, the Mirabell Casino was part of the hotel. In 1970 reconstruction work was begun, in order to give the Marionette Theatre a new home. The former dining-room of the hotel was converted into the auditorium with the stage. It is still impressive, with its elaborate stucco-work and opulent painting. In the course of repairs to the foyer in 2000, the original stucco-work was discovered, and since 2003 the foyer ceiling can be admired in its former splendour.
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Committee: Harald Labbow, Julia Heuberger-Denkstein, Barbara Ortner, Nina Eisenberger, Julia Skadarasy, Katharina Schneider, Eva Rutmann
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