Staatsoper Unter den Linden: Humperdinck’s untended “Snow White” as a folk-songed children’s opera

children’s Opera
:“Snow White” with looted art

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  • Clemens Haustein
"Snow White" (lfheidur Erla Gudmundsdttir) and the good dwarves at the State Opera.

“Snow White” (lfheidur Erla Gudmundsdttir) and the good dwarves at the State Opera.


Gianmarco Bresadola

Where does the opera go after Richard Wagner’s Old Germanic myth ham? To the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm! At least that was the opinion of Engelbert Humperdinck, who wrote his fairy tale operas and songs from the Wagner legacy. “The Seven Geisins” as well as the “King’s Children”, “Sleeping Beauty” and of course “Hansel and Gretel”. The closeness to the mythological remained intact. In the musical arrangement of the fairy tales, Humperdinck took a step as sujet-conditioned, which many regarded as necessary, according to Wagner: slimming down, the end of meaningfulness, back to childlike.

Engelbert Humperdinck wrote this opera with his sister

Also “Snow White” was Humperdinck, along with his sister Adelheid Wette, who also wrote him for “Hnsel and Gretel” the lyrics. But the composer only completed four songs for this “song play”, all performances of those busy dwarves, whom Snow White, driven by the stepmother into the forest, became a good home-help. This is wonderfully folksy songs, and as simple and well known as this music sounds, it seems to belong solely to “Snow White”.

When in the staging of the play in the old orchestra rehearsal room of the State Opera, the seven dwarfs perform and are sung and sung by members of the children’s choir of the house, it is as if a light suddenly opens. This certainly has something to do with the childlike singers, funny and sweet-witted as gnome garden gnomes, gray-bearded, in blue dungarees and with the National People’s Army marching leash on their backs (irony is essential to this staging, a gift to them) adults).

Music from other works by Humperdinck: looted art

Here, for the first time, the music fits so well, after Wolfgang Mitterer, who has completed the unfinished piece to a performable version, previously dealt with looted art: melodies and arias from Humperdincks other fairy tale operas, which he (at least finished) texts from the Snow White libretto highlighted. That sounds humane, but often also opera-like and under the musical direction of Symeon Ioannidis, and dramatically for the small frame of this song play, that it does not quite fit with the material.

The fact that only piano, contrabass and a bit of drums come to the accompaniment, eases the matter slightly, but the vacant spot fills a whole range of electronically generated ghost train sounds. Many a child closes their ears and hides behind the mother’s back.

Fine is sung, especially by the Icelandic Snow White actress with fairytale-like name: lfheidur Erla Gudmundsdttir, as well as sufficiently evil queen of Olivia Stahn. But what would this piece be without the dwarfs and their songs!

Snow White 19., 21.-24.3., 26.3., 28.-31.3., 2.4., 4.-7.4., Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Tel .: 20 35 45 55