Hansel & "Health Food"
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? The discussion offers an opportunity to apply the notes on students’ My Highs & Lows sheet, as well as their thoughts about the integration of food imagery into the Met production—in short, to see themselves as Hansel and Gretel experts.
[If your students did the activity Food for Thought, you may want to introduce a brief review at this point. Students may want to look at their “Hansel and Gretel Food Graphs” as well as their Performance Activity sheets.]
There can be no doubt by now that hunger, gluttony, waste—a range of issues involving food–are important to Hansel and Gretel and, evidently, to its composer and librettist. Why might that have been? (This, again, may be a review for students who did the prior food-themed activity.) What might life have been like in late 19th-century Germany to suggest that audiences would find this theme relevant? Why could opera have been a good way to make a statement about these concerns? Where would an artist go today if he or she wanted to raise consciousness about an important social issue?
Here’s a thought: What if Hansel and Gretel were hired to be “celebrity spokespeople” for a public-service advertising campaign about a food issue today? What issue might it be? The persistence of hunger is one possibility. Another is the need to have a balanced diet. Perhaps they could promote healthy eating—they certainly had experience with the perils of too many sweets!
Your students’ task in this activity is to identify a social issue involving food, to develop an advertising campaign aimed at addressing that issue—and to feature Hansel and Gretel. They can develop slogans, print ads, posters, radio or TV scripts. They might even decide to shoot video commercials.
Students should decide what audience they are addressing with their campaigns—what ages, what backgrounds? What will get this audience’s attention? How can they best reach the audience? Where would the elements of their campaigns appear? On TV? Online? In magazines? At cinemas?
The objective is for students to use all their creativity and skills to take Humperdinck’s version of Hansel and Gretel to the next level—a level that might not have existed in the 1890s, but is central to our world today.