Reviews Published 18 December 2018

Review: Hansel & Gretel at Royal Opera House

“Cook, stirring, until the misery has melted”: Rosemary Waugh’s review of the ROH’s opera takes the form of a very festive recipe.

Rosemary Waugh

‘Hansel & Gretel’ at Royal Opera House. Photo: Clive Barda

A Recipe for Hansel & Gretel, Royal Opera House’s New Christmas Treat

125g of brother and sister misery
60ml of Black Forest scenery
55g of lightly-packed family strife
300g of charmingly sung score
38g self-raising Humperdinck
1 tablespoon of evil baddie witch
1 tablespoon of rhyming couplets
½ tablespoon of Disney
1 extremely large vat of chocolate, lightly beaten

Serves: 2,256

Place the brother and sister misery, Black Forest scenery and lightly-packed family strife on a stage over a low heat. Cook, stirring, until the misery has melted to a pleasant woodland frolic and the family strife is replaced by fear for the children’s lives. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Sift the charmingly sung score, self-raising Humperdinck, and everything except the contents of the massive vat of chocolate (that’s for later) into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the molten liquid.

If you’re feeling extra festive, quadruple the ½ teaspoon of Disney by adding a dash of Snow White, a sprinkle of Little Red Riding Hood, some fast-moving Cinderella and a ballerina fairy.

Mix well and turn out onto a lightly floured surface post-interval. Knead well while dreaming Hitchcockian dreams of creepy redbrick houses.

Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 25 mins while gently stealing parts of the uncooked dough to nibble at, mouse-style.

Roll out the mixture, taking care to flatten down the scary witch as quickly as she appeared.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out 12-16 abandoned children. Line them up on a greaseproof-papered baking tray and, with a theatrical flourish, return to them the gift of sight (so cruelly taken by the witch) by sticking on small, round sweeties of your choice (Smarties and choc-chips work well, but feel free to go more rustic with a chopped walnuts or raisins).

Bake for 2 hours 15 mins (inc interval), then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serving suggestions:

This is a solid and reliable gingerbread, suitable for all the family, and offering an explosion of flavour at first bite, followed by a softer and slightly blander aftertaste.

Accompany with one small bowl of wild strawberries, consumed whilst baking.

Since this is (probably) the most Christmassy of operas ever created, it also pairs well with a glass of mulled wine.


Try substituting the vat of chocolate for an oven (blazing fire within, optional) to add a more sadistic edge to the witch’s murder.

Purchase a large volume of double cream and throw it spectacularly across the stage (splattering the front rows, optional) to really drive the point home that the milk is spilt, and it is worth crying over.

Decorate the resulting biscuits with additional festive sparkles or, better yet, slightly sinister iced doodles to introduce that all-important gothic note to your otherwise perfectly pleasant festive treat.

If the cupboards are bare of James Rutherfords, simply substitute for an Eddie Wade and enjoy the dark, treacly voice of the family patriarch.

Hansel & Gretel is on at Royal Opera House until 29th December. More info here


Rosemary Waugh

Rosemary is a freelance arts and theatre journalist, who regularly writes for Time Out and The Stage.

Review: Hansel & Gretel at Royal Opera House Show Info

Directed by Antony McDonald

Written by Humperdinck

Cast includes Jennifer Davis, Hanna Hipp, Michaela Schuster, Eddie Wade, Gerhard Siegel, Haegee Lee, Christina Gansch



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