Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, sung in English, will return to the Met December 16 as the company's annual holiday presentation. Performances of the opera this season will include weekday matinees and special ticket prices designed to appeal to families with children. The fairy tale adaptation, which will be seen in Richard Jones's fanciful production, will star Aleksandra Kurzak in her Met role debut as Gretel, opposite Alice Coote and Kate Lindsey (also making her Met role debut), who alternate in the role of Hansel. Michaela Martens and DWayne Croft will sing the roles of the adventurous children's parents, Gertrude and Peter, while Robert Brubaker will sing the Witch who wants to turn them into gingerbread cookies. Jennifer Johnson Cano will sing the Sandman, who coaxes the children to sleep, and Lindemann Young Artist Development Program member Lei Xu the Dew Fairy, who awakens them. The rising British conductor Robin Ticciati, currently music director of the Glyndebourne Festival, will make his Met debut.
In Humperdinck's opera, the siblings wander into the forest in search of strawberries and narrowly escape the clutches of an evil witch. The score includes the familiar "Evening Prayer," in which the children, alone in the forest, ask for fourteen angels to guard them as they sleep. The opera has been associated with the Christmas season ever since its premiere on December 23, 1893. In 1931, a live Christmas Day broadcast of Hansel and Gretel inaugurated the series of Met matinee radio broadcasts that continues to this day.
Kurzak made her Met debut in the 2004-05 season as Olympia in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Her other Met roles include Blondchen in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto. Coote starred as Hansel in the 2007-08 new production premiere of Jones's production, a performance that was transmitted to movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series. She has also appeared at the Met as Sesto in Handel's Giulio Cesare and as Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Lindsey sang Nicklausse in the 2009-10 new production premiere of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, a role she repeated at the Met last season, and has also sung Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Tebaldo in Verdi's Don Carlo, and Siébel in Gounod's Faust, a role she will repeat at the Met later this season. Brubaker's last Met appearance was as Mao Tse-Tung in the Met premiere of John Adams's Nixon in China. Later this season, he will sing Mime in Das Rheingold and Siegfried as part of complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. American soprano Heidi Stober will make her Met debut as Gretel at the December 29 performance.