Represented from yesterday's late editions.
A couple of real fireflies wandered in from outside, almost exactly on cue for the second scene of the Wolf Trap production of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" Wednesday night. That's the scene when two children, out picking berries began to realize that they are lost and that night is coming on in a forest inhabited by all kinds of fierce creatures, including a witch.
The staging, the superb costumes, the children from the Washington School of Ballet and the St. Alban's School Chorus were only part of the total effect, of course. The most important element was the music. Humperdinck wrote it beautifully in a style deeply rooted in the German folksong tradition and Wednesday night's cast sang it as it should be sung.
Faith Esham and Janice Hall in the title roles acted as well as they sang which was very well indeed. Domnie Ray Albert and Fredda Rakusin gave strong support in the role of the parents, and Franz Allers conducted the exquisite music with loving care.
The role of the witch was sung by a tenor, John Lankston. This is a departure from tradition, but not a bad idea in this opera, which is short of male roles. His performance Wednesday night didn't give much idea of his singing ability (that will be shown later this season in "Doktor Faust" and "L 'Egisto"), but it revealed a spectacular gift for comic acting - which is just what the role needs, as well as virtuoso technique in flying and manipulating a broom stick. I suppose these are handy talents for a tenor to have.
This production will be repeated at 8:30 p.m. every evening through Saturday. There will be some alternations in the cast, but Lankston and the spectacular staging will be available in all performances. You shouldn't miss it.