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Ending on a sweet note

Brava! Opera Theater presents ‘Hansel and Gretel’

Composer Engelbert Humperdinck’s rich lyrical scores impart the magic of “Hansel and Gretel” as Brava! Opera Theater and the James M. Collier Young Artist Program bring the story to life on a Southern Oregon stage for the first time in 15 years.

The performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at the Mountain Avenue Theater, on the Ashland High School campus, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. The fully-staged fairy tale opera will be performed in English and directed by artistic director Willene Gunn with the Rogue Valley Symphony’s Martin Majkut as conductor.

Featuring a richly talented national cast of professional opera singers, “Hansel and Gretel” is cherished by young and old alike, and tells the familiar story of two children who happen upon a mysterious gingerbread house in the woods and are captured by a witch.

“I have been involved with the opera ‘Hansel and Gretel’ many times over the years, both as a singer and a director.It has always been a delight,” Gunn says in a press release. “The opera is based on the very grim Grimm’s fairy tale of the same name. Humperdinck, however, with the help of his sister’s libretto, took this tale and turned it into an opera full of remarkable and beautiful music, creating a world ofhumanity, love,fantasy, fear and trust that the power of goodness cantriumph over evil.”

The principal singers — sopranos Ariana Wehr, Katie Harman Ebner, mezzo-sopranos Courtney Elvira and Stephanie Sanchez, tenor Nicholas Nestorak and bass-baritone Alex Soare — have garnered numerous awards and performed internationally and in the U.S. with Washington National Opera, Gilmmerglass Festival, Arizona Opera, Kentucky Opera, Sarasota Opera and many others. A Gingerbread chorus, made up of 12 local singers, will also be on stage.

Of Brava!’s take on the production, Gunn says, “Although it was originally a German fairy tale and thus placed in Germany, we are doing it in English, and I have placed it in no specific place or time. Poverty and hunger we all are aware of. We understand two children who try to make the best of their situation, who tease each other and play, but in adversity always stand together ... Goodness and freedom triumph, evil is banished and all ends happily. This perfect and joyful ending is surely what makes this a fairy tale.”

Brava! Opera Theater and James M. Collier Young Artist Program is an opera company created in 2010 by Gunn, general director Lorrie Hall and James M. Collier. They are one of only a handful of opera companies in Oregon. Since its inception, Brava! Opera Theater has trained over 100 singers and presented eight different operas.

Tickets are $40, $10 for ages 22 and younger and can be purchased online at bravaopera.com or by calling 1-800-901-7173 ext. 3, there is an additional $4 charge for phone orders.

Mezzo-soprano Courtney Elvira, left, plays Hansel, tenor Nicholas Nestorak, middle, portrays the witch, and soprano Ariana Wehr plays Gretel in Brava! Opera Theater’s production of “Hansel and Gretel.” (Photo by Cornelius Matteo)