01 Sep 2010

Composer of the week – Engelbert Humperdinck

Happy Birthday to German opera composer Engelbert Humperdinck!
Attention: There is a huge different between Engelbert Humperdinck the opera composer and Engelbert Humperdinck the pop crooner. They were born about 80 years apart on completely different continents. So yeah, two completely different guys, I promise.
Humperdinck (The opera composer. He’s the only one I’ll be talking about from here on out), had a pretty great musical career, even though we only really know him for one work, his opera Hänsel und Gretel. When he was in his 20’s he befriended Richard Wagner, and ended up helping him out on a production of Parsifal, and also tutored Wagner’s son, Siegfried, in music.
Join Utah Opera for Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, January 15-23, 2011.
Hänsel und Gretel was premiered when Humperdinck was 39, and Richard Strauss conducted it. It was a huge hit because it had some influence from Wagner, but also used a lot of traditional German folk melodies. It’s a standard for opera companies, and was the first complete opera broadcast on the radio (Royal Opera House, London) and the first opera to be broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera.
He spent his adult life composing and teaching, but none of his other works gained the same popularity as Hänsel und Gretel.
This is probably the most famous moment from the opera, the Evening Prayer, with an amazing performance by Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Stade.

And here’s a performance from the Royal Opera House. Jump forward to 8:30 for the witch’s “Hurr hopp hopp hopp” aria.