German composer Engelbert Humperdinck (1854–1921) created one of the most beloved works in the operatic repertoire when he transformed a favorite Grimm Brothers fairy tale into his operatic masterpiece, Hansel and Gretel. First produced in Weimar during the Christmas season of 1893, it remains a musical rarity: an opera loved by children as well as adults.
Adelheid Wette, Humperdinck’s sister, based her libretto for the opera on the Grimm Brothers’ tale, adding characters such as the Dew Fairy and the Sandman, and incidents such as the dream pantomime to enhance the work’s appeal as a theatrical spectacle. Humperdinck brought a Wagnerian swoop to the opera’s orchestration, deftly defining mood, building suspense, and infusing the story with childlike wonder.
From its first performance, under the baton of Richard Strauss, Hansel and Gretel was a phenomenal success, produced at over 50 theaters in its first year alone. This evergreen opera continues to charm audiences young and old with its buoyant musical fantasy. It is reprinted here in full score, with German text, from an authoritative German edition.