In the first full opera to be performed at USD in a decade, each of the three acts features different singers in the roles of Hansel and Gretel. Since there are two separate casts, a total of 12 students will play the title roles, along with several students playing the parts of the witch, the parents and the gingerbread kids.

Humperdinck’s magical fairy tale follows two starving children lost in the woods only to find an evil witch who wants to eat them. As night sets, the children see and hear things and meet fantastical fairies who protect them. The scene features the popular "Evening Prayer" duet between Hansel and Gretel.

When they wake up in the morning and continue traveling through the woods, they come upon a magical house made of candies and cookies. A sweet little old lady invites them inside, but when they try to run she casts a spell on them forcing them to stay. Through clever wit, the children escape, free the gingerbread children and are reunited with their parents.

Given the story’s theme about hungry children, the USD Opera Workshop is using the production to raise food for the Vermillion Food Pantry. Though admission is free, audience members are encouraged to bring a donation of food or money to the show.

"Even though this is a fairy tale, there are some very real themes in the story. Hunger and poverty are some of them. We wanted to act on that," director and voice professor Paul Hindemith said.

Humperdinck’s colorful opera also lets the students stretch their creative talents beyond typical roles, including student tenor Clint Johnson, who has been cast as the witch in one of the three acts. The role of Hansel is played by women dressed in boys’ clothes (a “pants role” in opera). Mezzo-Sopranos Sarah Permann, Autumn Ingwersen, Kendra Roozing, Sarah Marsolek, Laura Schmitz and Michelle Duch all share the role of Hansel.

There are four performances at the Colton Recital Hall at the USD Fine Arts Center in Vermillion. The opera starts at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free, though there is a suggested donation of $9 or $5 with an item for the Vermillion Food Pantry.

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