Today@Sam Article

Sweet Treat Served Up By SHSU Opera

Nov. 1, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

In anticipation of the holiday season, Sam Houston State University Opera will present Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with performances in the Dance Theater of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 4, and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 5.

Composed in 1892, this full-length, fairy tale opera is based on a collection of children’s songs and dances written by Humperdinck’s sister for her children in honor of Christmas.Final Poster

In keeping with the tradition of SHSU Opera, the production represents a three-part collaboration between SHSU performing arts groups. Joining the singers on stage is a cast of dancers choreographed by first-year SHSU assistant professor of dance, Joshua Manculich.

“I am a fan of live music and everyone in this production agrees that music and dance have an incredible ability to unravel a story,” Manculich said.

Also a part of the collaboration is the SHSU Symphony under the direction of Jacob Sustaita, who serves as director of orchestral studies in the School of Music. Sustaita will conduct the performances and act as musical director for the production.

“The production resonates with audiences of any age and is one of the most enjoyable fairy-tale operas ever created,” Sustaita said.

Rounding out the project is Rebecca Renfro Grimes, Opera Workshop director and associate professor of voice. Grimes sees this particular collaboration as a “fantastic fit” between music and dance.

“The composer was a great admirer of Richard Wagner, and he conceived “Hansel and Gretel” as a lavish orchestral showpiece, with the instrumental music often taking center stage of the action,” Grimes said.  “Like Wagner’s operas, the main characters and the music mature over the course of the story, representing the main character's transformation and awakening.”

Artistic collaborations such as these not only enhance the audience’s experience, but also help students in the arts learn from one another.

"This experience has involved lots of hard work, but seeing how far we've come and grown from this production is definitely rewarding," said student performer, Gisela Gonzalez, who sings the role of Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel 2013

Lorenzo Johnson Jr., who sings the role of the witch, has thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the production.

“The work we have put into it is very technical yet dwells on the side of fun and imaginative. It has been amazing to see a fairytale brought to life,” Johnson said.

For the opera’s youngest audience members, SHSU Opera has planned a special children’s event on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. Prior to the matinee performance there will be a reading of the “Hansel and Gretel” story followed by a special craft project with the SHSU Sam Choral Educators organization. All children attending the opera will also have the opportunity to participate in part of the opera performance as well.  For more information, or to register your child for the Sunday afternoon children’s event, please contact Rebecca Grimes at

“Hansel and Gretel” will be sung in English and is directed by Grimes. For tickets and information the GPAC Box office at or 936 294 2339.

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