We have adapted Humperdinck’s opera to bring you the most charming and catchy tunes, with spoken narration and acting in between. But make no mistake, the singing is real opera – be prepared to be thrilled and amazed.
The original story was of course written by the Brothers Grimm and you can hear it told by Natasha in one of our first story productions. Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Long ago, in a cottage on the edge of a dark wood, two children were busy doing boring jobs. Hansel was making a broom for their father to sell. Gretel was patching up the holes in some old socks. Both were hungry, but they tried not to think about their empty stomachs. As they worked, Gretel sang a simple song.
GRETEL sings Suzie pretty Suzie, what’s that in the straw? The geese are running barefoot and they can’t find their shoes! The cob-bler who made them can’t make any more, Has-n’t got the lea-ther that he needs to use.
HANSEL He-y diddle diddle, I’m so un-derfed. Who’ll give me fif-ty, For some jam and some bread? I could sell my bed and sleep on the straw. Oh the hun-ger is biting, Then I won’t be bitten by fleas a-ny more.
If only our mother would come home at last.
GRETEL Oh yes, I need to eat something pretty fast
HANSEL For weeks; dry bread without a break. I can’t take more of this tummy ache.
GRETEL Shush Hansel, think about what Father says when Mother blubbers and dis-mays When there’s trouble to withstand God will lend a hel—ping hand
HANSEL speaks Oh Gretel, I wish I had something to eat. Your song makes me feel all the more hungry. I can’t remember the last time we had anything but rough old bread.
GRETEL Well I’ve got a secret. Tonight, we shall have rice pudding!
HANSEL Rice Pudding! Don’t torture me with your fibs! You know how I love rice pudding!
GRETEL It’s true, it’s true! A lady in the village took pity on us. She filled mother’s empty jug with milk. Look up! There it is on the top shelf.
HANSEL Wow! Milk! Has it got the cream on it? I’ll climb up and stick my thumb in.
GRETEL You’ll do no such thing. But isn’t it wonderful? I can’t work any more – I’m dreaming of rice pudding.
HANSEL Me too.
GRETEL I’m so happy. Come on Brother dance with me!
HANSEL I don’t dance with little soppy girls.
GRETEL Little boy come dance with me. Put your hands where I can see; One by here, one by there, Round you go without a care.
HANSEL Little Girl I’m not so sure, I’ll just end up on the floor. Will you show me what to do, So that I can dance like you?
GRETEL With your foot you tap tap tap, with your hand you clap clap clap. One by here, one by there, Round you go without a care.
HANSEL With my foot I tap tap tap, With my hand I clap clap clap. One by here, one by there, Round without a care.
GRETEL Hey no joking, I’m impressed! That’s not something I’d have guessed. Now let’s see you keep that smile, Trying out a harder style.
With your head you nick nick nick, With your fingers tick tick tick. One by here, One by there, Round you go without a care.
HANSEL With my head I nick nick nick, With my fingers tick tick tick. One by here, One by there, Round without a care.
GRETEL speaks SHHH! Look busy. Here’s mother.
MOTHER What’s all this horsing around? Stop it at once. Playing is for rich kids! We’re too poor. There will be no supper until you finish your work.
HANSEL Oh mother, is it true that there will be rice pudding tonight? I’m so hungry.”
MOTHER Didn’t you hear what I said? Give me that broom. It’s not half finished. What have you been doing all this time? Take that, you lazy child!
SOUND FX [Bang!]
HANSEL AAAAGH! Don’t hit me!
GRETEL Oh no!! Look out!
SOUND FX [Crash! Smash!]
MOTHER Now see what you’ve done! You wicked, wicked children!
GRETEL Oh the milk is all over the floor!
MOTHER It’s spilt. All spilt. There is nothing for dinner now, nothing – nothing! (bursts into tears)
GRETEL Dear mother. Don’t be so upset!
MOTHER Silence both of you! Go out to the woods and find strawberries!
GRETEL But mother! It’s getting late. It’s the wrong time of year for …
MOTHER Do as I say or you’ll be sorry! Out, out of my sight! Why did I ever have children? Just eat and sleep, sleep and eat; play around and break things, make noise, make trouble – that’s all you two are good for. Get out! And don’t come back until your basket is full of berries! Or I’ll whip you both!
[BRING UP SOME INCIDENTAL MUSIC]
Hansel and Gretel, both down at heart, left the cottage to look for strawberries. They did not hear their mother, inside, quietly praying to herself.
MOTHER Dear God. Help me feed my children. I haven’t got a single crumb for them. They are naughty but I love them with all my heart. I feel so hopeless. Send us some relief from our suffering.
[FX: Walking along a path]
HANSEL This is silly. How shall we find strawberries? They are not out yet.
GRETEL Perhaps the little man of the wood will help us.
HANSEL The who?
GRETEL The little man of the wood.
GRETEL sings A little man stands silent in the wood, He wears a little cape with a velvet hood. Say what sort of man can be one who stand there, Like a tree in his little purple cape and hood?
The little man is balanced up on one leg, He wears a little bonnet up on his head. Say what sort of man can be, One who stand on just one knee, And a little bonnet on his head? And a little bonnet on his head?
HANSEL Hey look! I don’t know about your little man, but there’s a little strawberry!
GRETEL And where’s there’s one, there’s bound to be more.
HANSEL We’re in luck!
The children, in their excitement, left the path and wandered through the bushes, filling their basket with strawberries as they went. There were pretty wild flowers too, which Gretel picked up when she saw them. As the sun was setting, they found themselves in a clearing, and they sat down beneath a fir tree. Gretel began to join the flowers together in a ring.
HANSEL What’s that for?
GRETEL You shall crown me The Woodland Queen.
HANSEL All hail The Woodland Queen! Let’s celebrate with strawberries!
GRETEL Oh go on, just one.
HANSEL Or two….
Gretel takes a strawberry from the basket and pops it into her brother’s mouth. He sucks on it. It is the most delicious taste in the world, and it is far too good to resist another one. Of course it is not long before the strawberries are all gone.
GRETEL Whoops! What naughty children we are! Mother will whip us if we go back with an empty basket.
HANSEL Go back? How shall we go back? It’s almost dark. We can’t see the path.
GRETEL Oh! Oh oh oh! What shall we do?
HANSEL What can we do? We must stay here the night. In the morning we’ll pick more berries, and find the path home.
GRETEL You’re right. I’m so tired I can feel the Sandman closing my eyelids already. But we mustn’t forget our evening prayers.
GRETEL sings When at night I go to bed, Fourteen Angels watch my head; Two are here beside me. When at night I go to bed, Fourteen angels watch my head; Two are here beside me, Two are here to guide me, Two are by my right hand, Two are by my left hand, Two are here to guide me, Two are by my right hand. Two are by my – Two are there to lull me, Two are there to wake me, Two are there to guide me to my left hand, Two are there to lull me, Two are there to wake me, Two to guide to highest heaven paradise, heaven paradise.
GRETEL (yawns) Where am I? Is it still a dream? Is this the wood? Why am I here…? Hansel, Hansel, wake up you lazy bones.
HANSEL Did you see them?
HANSEL The fourteen angels! They just went rushing by.
GRETEL You were dreaming, my silly brother.
HANSEL Oh I must have been… but hold on! Is that a dream?
GRETEL What, was that there last night?
For now, in the clearing, in a spot that was empty the evening before, stood a cottage. It was no ordinary house – for it was not built of wood or bricks. It was all made of the sweetest, most delicious things! The hedge was gingerbread; the windows glistened with sugar, the roof was Turkish delight! At first it smelled of marzipan and nuts, and the sweetest raisins. And then – oh yes; of hot, yummy, gooey chocolate sauce. You could breath it in, and it made you feel all warm and happy. But as you can imagine, something that looked so tasty had a magical attraction. You just felt like you were being pulled towards it, that you had to reach out and touch it, taste it, devour it … and you knew that you shouldn’t. You knew that you should keep back… but you just couldn’t help yourself.
HANSEL Oh Gretel, let’s nibble the garden gate a bit. I’m sure it tastes delicious.
GRETEL I don’t think we should. A house like that must belong to a princess.
HANSEL Then she can afford a few crumbs. Hmmm. Yes, the gate does taste SO good! Even better than it looks. I’m going to try the doorknob. It’s made of marzipan. Come on sister, tuck in. When are you going to get a chance to feast like this again? Uh-oh! Hold on.
[HOCUS POCUS MUSIC]
Who’s that? The princess’s grandma? She looks like a bit of an old hag!
GRETEL Hansel. Don’t be so rude!
THE WITCH Nibble, nibble mousekin Who’s nibbling at my housekin?
HANSEL Who are you, ugly face?
THE WITCH Now darling, that’s not nice. I’m Rosina Dainty-Mouth. Children are dear to me. I so love to eat – I mean – meet them.
HANSEL Get back! Don’t come near us!
THE WITCH Come little mouse, come into my house. If you think my garden gate tastes nice, wait until you try my cooking. Oh deary-dear, aren’t you hungry?
GRETEL Well yes, we are. Could we take something back for our mother and father?
THE WITCH Of course. Come inside. I have rice pudding!
GRETEL Rice pudding! I’d love to try some.
HANSEL Gretel, don’t go inside… Let’s run.
THE WITCH Hold! Hocus pocus, witch’s charm! Move not as you fear my arm! Back or forward do not try, Fixed you are by the evil eye! Children watch the magic head, eyes are staring dull as lead. Now you kids, off to bed!
GRETEL I suppose I had better do as she says… It’s not good for children to disobey grown ups.
THE WITCH (whispering to herself) Yes, Gretel mine How well off you I’ll dine! But Hansel my boy so young, Let me try your thumb. Urchin, you’re a scraggy one. No more meat than a skeleton..
Maiden Gretel! Bring some raisins and almonds sweet. Hansel wants some more to eat!
Yes, we’ll soon fatten him up…
GRETEL But he can’t move his mouth because of the spell you put on him.
THE WITCH Oh yes… Hocus pocus elder bush, Stiffen body, loosen. Whoosh! Hehe, my-my little miss, Give your brother this. Don’t cry, there’s no matter Cakes will only make him fatter.
HANSEL Sister dear, beware!
THE WITCH She makes my mouth water- This pretty little daughter. Come Gretel fine, Sugar maiden mine, Open up the oven door. Should we bake the cake some more? Carefully look, my little pet, is it ready yet?
(Whispers) When in the oven she’s peeping, I’ll be behind her creeping. One little push, bang! The door goes clang! Then soon will Gretel be, Just done to a T!
GRETEL Uh, I don’t understand what I have to do.
WITCH Just stand on tip-toe Head bending forward, Try it I pray, It’s merely play.
HANSEL Sister, take care.
GRETEL I’m such a goose, I don’t understand. Please show me what to do.
WITCH Like this you see, Open the oven, it’s easy
HANSEL Come on sister, now!
HANSEL AND GRETEL Then one little push, bang Goes the door, clang! You, not Gretel, then will be Just done to a T!
HANSEL Hurrah! Now sing the witch is dead, no more to dread!
GRETEL Hurrah, the witch is still! Now we can eat our fill!
Yes, let us happy be dancing so merrily now the old witch is gone, we’ll have no end of fun! Hey! Hurrah, hurrah! Hip hurrah! Hip Hurrah! Hurrah!
SONG The spell is broke and we are free. We’ll sing and we’ll dance and we’ll shout for glee. Come children all, and form a ring. Join hands together while we sing. Then sing and spring, then dance and sing, for cakes and all good things we bring.
Mother Oh come to me my naughty, darling children.
SING When past bearing is our grief, then ’tis heaven will send relief.
[Music – lively dance]
The opera of Hansel and Gretel by the German composer, Englebert Humperdinck (1854 -1921) is traditionally performed at Christmas. The celebration of sweets and food makes a seasonal delight. Or course, if you know the story, you will realise that the section with the witch is spooky enough to listen to at Halloween too.