During this past summer and fall, OPUS has been working undergraduate and graduate students as singers, production team members, and collaborators in an effort to create meaningful performance despite the pandemic. The final product of countless Zoom meetings and virtual rehearsals will be a full, free album of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and an abridged children’s album that we plan to disseminate through local Evanston and Chicago libraries. Each student involved in the project has overcome different personal and technical obstacles to continue making music for which we are very proud and grateful. Beyond the joy of singing, we still see our art as inherently political and necessitating a reason to be performed.
A word from the director, McKenna Troy: Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is about children who cannot eat, and a mom and a dad who are doing their best. However, with any mistake, even spilling one jug of milk, they are left to face the reality that they could starve to death. In this production, it is from this unfair perspective of the American working class that the story unfolds. And yet, in many retellings, Hansel and Gretel is the story of a child’s greed. A story reiterating the privileged narrative that poverty is a path taken by the fat and lazy, that it is a choice rather than the result of a system that benefits the wealthy and subjugates the poor. All of the fantasy characters, not just the witch, represent all that it is to be rich from the children’s perspective, whereas the children employ crude language and are wildly free in action and feeling. Evanston has a 13% poverty rate, and the narrative of shame surrounding that poverty must end. Information regarding local action groups as well as specific demands to limit food waste at Northwestern will be promoted alongside the album. The album will exist on the internet and on OPUS’ social media for free. Through the incredible university singers at Northwestern, and the organizers of Evanston, measurable change will be brought to our community.