By Daniel Buckwalter

The familiar feels warm, and this is the best part.

There’s the pair of wayward kids, brother and sister, a dark and mysterious forest, a witch (who is costumed to perfection) and wonderful singing throughout in Eugene Opera’s production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

Opening night was May 31 in a packed Wildish Community Theater in downtown Springfield — including many children — and the family-friendly production concludes with a matinee on Sunday, June 2. It is a crisp opera, well worth seeing, and be sure to take the family.

Eugene Opera, with a slimmed-down cast for the Wildish Theater stage, stays true to the story arc of the classic children’s fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

In Act 1, Hansel and Gretel, children from a poor household, get lost in the forest while foraging for food. In Act 2, night falls, and the children realize they are lost. But the Dew Fairy (Emily Evelyn Way) intercedes to put the children comfortably to sleep along with forest animals representing the 14 angels in the well-known song, Evening Prayer, watching over them.

When Hansel and Gretel awaken at the beginning of Act 3, they find themselves outside the Witch’s bewitching Candy House, where the crone (mezzo-soprano Emily Pulley) uses the lure of luscious breads, cakes, and other sugary delights to capture them, intending to push them into her large oven and have them for dinner. Instead, Gretel pushes the Witch into the oven.

At that point, their father (played by William Hulings), who has been looking for the children, finds them. The family is reunited, and all ends well.

That said, two things stick out about Eugene Opera’s production of Hansel and Gretel.

First, kudos to costume designer Ginette Grenier, especially for her work with the Witch. Greiner nails this perfectly, to the point that, midway through the third act, when Hansel declares her “an ugly crone,” you have to chuckle because — well, she is.

Secondly, the duets that Hansel (mezzo soprano Sarah Beaty) and Gretel (soprano Ivy Zhou) sing are marvelous to absorb.

This is especially true in the second act when, just prior to the children falling asleep in the forest, Hansel and Gretel sing Evening Prayer. Even if you’ve heard it many times before (and it is a favorite bedtime lullaby for many parents to sing to their children), to hear it again from Beaty and Zhou is lovely.

All of that and the superb acting make Eugene Opera’s Hansel and Gretel a wonderful experience. Go see the Sunday matinee, at 2:30 p.m. at the Wildish, 630 Main St. in downtown Springfield.

Tickets are available online at