Is Hansel and Gretel a trans opera?

Is Hansel and Gretel a trans opera?


norman lebrecht

January 18, 2022

The Berlin filmmaker Axel Ranisch is staging a new Staatsoper Stuttgart production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

He says: ‘For months I struggled to make the wicked witch into a good witch. I thought about whether she could be a trans person who suffers from society’s heteronormativity. But in the end, none of that worked out. The witch therefore remains the evil person, but she acts like a benefactress by handing out delicious drops. In a world where the forests have been burned with nothing left to eat, people courageously seize any opportunity. And during a famine, it would never occur to anyone that the fine sweets might be made from their own children. If you wanted to, you could read a lot into that: deceptive bait offers, the cannibalism of a broken social and economic order.’

Oh, really?

photo (c) Chris Christodoulou, Glyndebourne


  • Alphonse says:

    Answer: No.

  • Nicholas says:

    Absolute balderdash.

  • Brian says:

    Gosh. What a pity that the opera has no libretto and that a stage director has to bring his own.

  • Someone should inform him it is a Kinderstubenweihfestspiel.

  • Don’t know about this production, but the child’s world of ‘Let’s pretend’ is one of the foundations of the human capacity for metaphor. Perhaps that’s why so many children’s stories are pretty horrific. From that perspective, this staging might not be so unusual.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Peter Schreier recorded the role of the Witch. More than half a century ago. So Ransich is very late to this party.

  • James says:

    At least the director seems to be listening to what the text has to say.

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    Please, come on, not another one of those unstable weenies who, instead of seeking professional help from a psychiatrist, directs an opera as self-help.

  • Harry Vreeswijk says:

    Cf. Soylent Green …

  • Nicholas Ennos says:

    Pseuds corner

  • IP says:

    Of course. Just like all other operas — Il Trovatore, L’elisir d’amore, Tristan und Isolde. . . didn’t you know?

    Now seriously, it is not the trans thing but the increasing sympathizing with the evil-doers that bothers me. When I heard the opera for the first time, I was amazed at how much of the psychology of a serial killer was faithfully reproduced in the witch’s character.

  • Una says:

    Plain no! Follow what the composer put on the page by way of words and music, and intended, and not turn erverything into something he never intended by self-indulgent stage directors and producers.

  • John Borstlap says:

    “I thought about whether she could be a trans person who suffers from society’s heteronormativity.”

    Hilarious. It suggests that suffering transpersons turn into evildoers.

  • Cross-dressing burlesque is a mainstay of theater and when properly presented children enjoy it immensely, usually with great mirth. Think of circus clowns as an obvious example. There might also be some important lessons in productions using it about people who are different and unfairly isolated and abused.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Yes but is that a reason to go to the opera? Isn’t opera about the human condition in general, mostly in a symbolic way? Is opera about current social injustices? Is Hansel und Gretel about these specific people – who never existed anyway? It is all taking it much too literally, it is a way of materialist thinking.

  • Jim says:

    Here’s a law of nature a lot of people aren’t aware of: If a media headline asks a yes/no question, the answer is No.