Lycoming College presents ‘Hansel and Gretel’ opera

The Lycoming College Music and Theatre Departments will present Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera “Hansel and Gretel” at 8 p.m. on Feb. 17 and 18 at the Mary L. Welch Theatre. Presented in English translation, the beloved German children’s tale is brought to life by Lycoming College students and faculty, featuring the Williamsport Youth Chamber Chorus as the gingerbread children.

Director Dr. Biliana Stoytcheva-Horissian holds a master’s degree of fine arts in acting from The National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria and a doctorate in theatre arts from the University of Oregon. Since joining Lycoming College’s faculty in 2015, Stoytcheva-Horissian has been involved in many productions and is excited about this latest venture.

“After the very successful collaboration on the musical Cabaret last year, the theatre and music departments at Lycoming College decided to undertake another collaborative project. The music department proposed the title and we all agreed that Hansel and Gretel, one of the most successful fairy-tale operas ever created, will be a great choice that will resonate with both adults and kids in the audience and provide creative learning opportunities for students in both departments,” said Stoytcheva-Horissian.

Serving as music director is professor Fiona Gillespie Jackson, who holds degrees from Westminster College and the University of North Texas. Gillespie Jackson teaches as an adjust professor of voice at Lycoming College, and she is the co-founder of the Lycoming Baroque Choir and Orchestra.

“The collaborative opportunities that this show provides both between our two departments and the larger community is wonderful. In addition to music and theater students and faculty involved in the production, we have brought in eleven young singers from the Williamsport Youth Choir to play the Gingerbread Children, and eight fantastic instrumentalists from the surrounding area to form our pit orchestra,” said Gillespie Jackson.

“All students involved in the production as performers, designers, and production team have taken on the challenging task of bringing the story to life with a smile and dedication. They have brought their passion for theatre and music to the rehearsal hall, the design room, and the shops and have dedicated many hours on creating this beautiful and exciting production,” continued Stoytcheva-Horissian.

For Stoytcheva-Horissian, the collaborative process is rewarding: “Everyone brings their creative ideas to the table and the director has the responsibility to incorporate them in a way that the performance looks as if it were the product of a single creative mind.”

Gillespie Jackson agreed, “I love the challenge that doing an opera brought to not only the actors who have singing roles, but to everyone involved — the silent characters, choreographer, lighting designers and stage manager — all of these students had to become intimately familiar with this repertoire in order to make all the pieces come together in service to the music. I love that despite not all of them being musicians, or music students, they have been introduced to this beautiful staple in the classical music repertoire. They’ve all been able to expand their skill sets through approaching their various tasks, on and off stage, in coordination with the score. Likewise, I am excited to bring another genre of classical music to the Williamsport area that is not often done here.”

Audiences can expect “the story of the two resourceful and spirited children who get lost in the dark forest, become captives of an old witch, and outwit her at the end is well known due to the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm,” according to Stoytcheva-Horissian. “Our production brings a wonderful variety of visually exciting elements through the scenic, costume, and lighting design. And we also added a few silent characters who make the scary, ominous forest world even more threatening.”

Tickets are available at or in the box office in the lobby of the Mary L. Welch Theatre, Mulberry Street entrance or by calling 570-321-4048.