'Hansel and Gretel' opera opens April 19

Educational outreach part of Cal Lutheran project

Maddy Barnes is Hansel and Rachel Counihan is Gretel.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – April 3, 2018) California Lutheran University music, theater and education majors and La Reina Middle School students are joining forces in April to present an operatic “Hansel and Gretel” and to teach elementary and middle school students to appreciate it.

“Hansel and Gretel” will be performed for the public at 8 p.m. April 19 through 21 and at 2 p.m. April 21 and 22 in the Preus-Brandt Forum on the Thousand Oaks campus.

Cal Lutheran students will explain opera and then present an abridged version of “Hansel and Gretel” at Redwood Middle School and Meadows Arts and Technology and Ladera elementary schools in Thousand Oaks on April 10 and 11. Students in Cal Lutheran’s Interdisciplinary Educational Studies program will provide teachers with lesson plans they developed to deepen the children’s understanding of opera.

The La Reina Singers, a middle school choral group, will perform as the children’s chorus in the opera.

Engelbert Humperdinck composed the operatic masterpiece in 1892 after his sister asked him to write music for songs based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale that she had written for her children. This imaginative retelling of the story is a feast for the eye and ear where witches aren’t always what they seem and nightmares are only a forest away.

The Cal Lutheran students in the “Hansel and Gretel” cast are Maddy Barnes of Bozeman, Montana; Rachel Counihan of Granada Hills; Anna Demaria of Ventura; Jordan Erickson of Thousand Oaks; Julia Garcia of Thousand Oaks; Katie Shearer of Aurora, Oregon; Brooke St Johns of Westlake Village; Israel Stewart of Camarillo; and Anika Valdez of Anchorage, Alaska.

Heidi Valencia Vas, who teaches voice at Cal Lutheran and serves as music director at La Reina High School, is directing the production. She has performed and recorded extensively in opera and other genres and made guest appearances with the New Rochelle Opera and Palm Springs Opera Guild. Jessica Helms, a Cal Lutheran alumna who serves as coordinator of chapel music, will conduct. 

The Cal Lutheran Community Leaders Association provided a $2,500 grant for the educational outreach. 

Admission is $10. For tickets, visit CalLutheran.edu/theatre-arts. For more information, call 805-493-3452.