The broom-maker’s house
Hansel and Gretel are doing chores. Both are bored and hungry, and to cheer themselves up they start to dance. Their games are interrupted by their Mother, who is angry to find them playing instead of working. In her anger she knocks over the milk jug, losing what was to have been supper. She sends them into the forest to gather strawberries for their meal. Alone, the Mother laments their precarious existence, but is soon interrupted by the return of her husband. Irritated to find him tipsy, her mood brightens when he produces a sack full of food. When he enquires after Hansel and Gretel, he is alarmed to hear they are in the forest: he warns of the Witch who lives there, and both parents set out to search for their children.
Hansel and Gretel pick and eat strawberries. When night falls they realise they are lost, and are frightened by the mysterious shapes in the mist, but a Sandman appears and settles them. Hansel and Gretel say their evening prayers and go to sleep. Angels appear to guard them from harm.
The Witch’s house
At dawn the Dew Fairy wakes Hansel and Gretel. They notice a house not far away, but when they begin to tamper with it, the Witch emerges and captures them, casting a spell. She imprisons Hansel, telling Gretel that her brother needs to be fattened up. She also casts a spell on Gretel, in order that the girl may help her with the oven. Gretel makes clever use of the Witch’s spell to free Hansel. As the Witch demonstrates to Gretel how to check the oven, the children take advantage of the situation. At the Witch’s demise, the children she had previously captured are freed, and they thank Hansel and Gretel for saving them. The Mother and Father appear, and the family is reunited.
Synopsis provided by Glyndebourne Productions Ltd