Caroline Jang (left) and Sylvia Szadovszki star in Vancouver Opera in Schools’ Hansel and Gretel

Opera has ear and eye candy for kids

Vancouver Opera in School returns with Hansel and Gretel.

It’s true you’ll never look at a candy house quite the same after reading Hansel and Gretel.

A rather scary tale when told in the original Brothers Grimm version –– with that cannibalistic witch –– a newer operatic version promises to be a far tastier treat, and is aimed towards elementary school children ages five to 12.

Vancouver Opera in School’s latest touring production is the opening show for the Vernon Performing Arts Centre society’s kids series, and takes the stage at the centre Sunday.

“Vancouver Opera in Schools did Cinderella here last year and we received calls afterwards from families who said they loved it,” said the Performing Arts Centre’s artistic director Erin Kennedy. “They have these gorgeous sets and costumes.”

Directed with libretto by Lumby-raised director/playwright Amiel Gladstone, Hansel and Gretel features four energetic young opera singers, one nimble-fingered pianist, a self-contained set and a full complement of dramatic costumes and props.

Sung in English and based on Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic opera version of the Grimm fable,  the 45-minute-long production will introduce more than 40,000 young children and their families to the beauty, relevance and sheer fun of opera, said Gladstone, adding young fans of Lemony Snickett and Edward Gorey will be charmed by the striking, Edwardian-inspired set.

“In the age of Harry Potter and Twilight, young people today appreciate a darker aesthetic,”  said Gladstone. “(Designer) Drew Facey and I wanted to create something modern, but with references to a sort of Gothic or Edwardian period that may have only existed in our imaginations. This seems to be a perfect match for the Hansel and Gretel story: a struggling family living on the edge of a dark wood, inhabited by a witch or ogre creature who baits children with a candy house.”

With music direction by Kinza Tyrrell, Hansel and Gretel joins Vancouver Opera in School’s vast repertoire.

One of the largest touring programs of its kind in Canada, the company is in its 40th season and has enthralled more than 1.5 million elementary school children and their families in communities throughout B.C. Alberta, Ontario and Washington State.

Hansel and Gretel shows at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday for two performances at 2 and 4 p.m. Series subscriptions and individual tickets ($12 all seats) can be purchased at the Ticket Seller box office by calling 549-7469 or visit


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