a ‘striking dramatic take on the familiar tale’ (review by Robert Hugill)

Breadcrumbs performed by Charlotte Richardson (soprano) and Clemmie Curd (cor anglais), directed by Omar Shahryar, at Kings Place for Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, 9 August 2014.
Breadcrumbs is a dramatic monologue for unaccompanied soprano, based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.

It was composed for soprano Julia Weatherley’s Master of Music recital in 2013 and was designed to explore ideas and material to be developed into a chamber opera in 2014.

The text is by the composer and incorporates material from Eastern European fairy tales, Dante’s Inferno and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The singer plays the role of 15-year-old Gretel, alone in the woods. The back-story to the piece is that after their father abandoned Hansel and Gretel (rather than kill them as his wife had ordered him to), Hansel (aged about 12 or 13) went to try to find the breadcrumb trail and got lost. She is angry with him and feels responsible for her little brother. After an optional cor anglais introduction, Breadcrumbs begins with Gretel’s scathing indictment of Hansel’s idea of tracking the path back to their home with breadcrumbs. With nightfall, she expresses her fear of being alone in the dark and with nothing else to do, she relates her whimsical mental wanderings around the image of “a darkness a spoon could stand up in”. Finally, she sees a light through the trees, smells gingerbread and hears her brother – can they have found the safe haven she craves?

An early version of Breadcrumbs was workshopped by Jane Manning at Tete a Tete opera festival in Hammersmith in August 2013, and the completed work was first performed by Julia Weatherley (soprano) and Clemmie Curd (cor anglais) in September 2013 [view video]. In August 2014, Breadcrumbs was featured as a free fringe event in the 2014 Tête à Tête opera festival at Kings Place, performed by Charlotte Richardson (soprano) and Clemmie Curd (cor anglais) and directed by Omar Shahryar, and also performed at the Barbican [view: rehearsal video teaser, production photos].

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