Hello I am Zin and I love opera! And I love puppets! So what could be better than a puppet opera?
Paper Bull Puppets and VOX Maine put on Hansel and Gretel this year! I did not attend the formal performance where they had live singers and a pianist but they did excerpts at the library and even though it was announced as a Children’s Event, it was ok for adults to go! So I was able to see it! It was really wonderful! It was something like a dress rehearsal for them with all the scenery and the shadow work and it was lovely! They did the beautiful “Evening Prayer” scene which was really lovely! Unfortunately Hansel’s head came off at the end of the first excerpt so they had to repair him during intermission but one of the guys came out and had us singing and he talked about opera and puppets, so it was just fine!
They do not use hand puppets or marionettes, but bunraki, a traditional Japanese theater that uses hand-guided puppets! Two or three people, dressed in black, handle the puppets, one the head and body, one the arms and one the feet! It kind of looks like they are taking care of an injured child because they are all gathered around these three-foot-tall puppets but after a while I stopped noticing the people and just looked at the puppets!
I went to the library early to browse the Edward Gorey display again and maybe find some new thing to read and in the lobby were Hansel and Gretel! It was so cool, the puppet handlers had them sitting on the fountain and they just were trying to generate some interest so they let me take a short video and some pictures! There was a lady telling the puppets not to fight and I wanted her to be quiet but she kept telling them to kiss and make up and they did! Then the puppet handlers talked to us for a while and while they were talking Hansel and Gretel’s heads were moving like they were looking around, and Hansel poked Gretel and pointed to something in the commissary, it was really quite good, they made those puppets look alive even when they were talking to us!
I did not know this before I went to see the show but it is very appropriate that Hansel and Gretel is a puppet opera because that is how it was written! He wrote a few songs for a puppet show his nieces were doing, then he wrote a few more and a few more and suddenly he had the whole story as an opera! It is frequently performed this way in fact!