Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 4: Hansel and Gretel - Act 2, Scene 1

by Engelbert Humperdinck

Performer: Musopen Symphony


Peter, Broom-maker.

Gertrude, his wife.

Hansel, their son.

Gretel, their daughter.

The Witch who eats children.

Sandman, the Sleep Fairy.

Dewman, the Dawn Fairy.


The Fourteen Angels.



(The curtain rises. The middle of the forest. In the background is the Ilsestein, thickly surrounded by fir-trees. On the right is a large fir-tree, under which Gretel is sitting on a mossy tree-trunk and making a garland of wild roses. By her side lies a nosegay of flowers. Amongst the bushes on the left is Hansel, looking for strawberries. Sunset.)

GRETEL (humming quietly to herself).

There stands a little man in the wood alone,

he wears a little mantle of velvet brown.

Say, who can the mankin be,

standing there beneath the tree,

with the little mantle of velvet brown?

His hair is all of gold, and his cheeks are red,

he wears a little black cap upon his head.

Say, who can the mankin be,

standing there so silently,

with the little black cap upon his head?

(She holds up the garland of roses, and looks it all round.)

With the little black cap upon his head!

HANSEL (comes out, swinging his basket joyfully).

Hurrah! my strawberry basket is nearly brimful!

O won't the mother be pleased with Hansel!

GRETEL (standing up).

My garland is ready also!

Look! I never made one so nice before!

(Tries to put the wreath on Hansel's head.)

HANSEL (drawing back roughly).

You won't catch a boy wearing that!

It is only fit for a girl!

(Puts the wreath on her.)

Ha, Gretel! "Fine feathers!"

O the deuce!

You shall be the queen of the wood!


If I am to be queen of the wood,

then I must have the nosegay too!

HANSEL (gives her the nosegay).

Queen of the wood, with scepter and crown,

I give you the strawberries,

but don't eat them all!

(He gives the basket full of strawberries into her other hand, at the same time kneeling before her in homage. At this moment the cuckoo is heard.)


Cuckoo, cuckoo, how d'you do?


Cuckoo, cuckoo, where are you?

(Takes a strawberry from the basket and pokes it into Hansel's mouth. He sucks it up as though he were drinking an egg.)

HANSEL (jumping up).

Oho, I can do that just like you!

(Takes some strawberries and lets them fall into Gretel's mouth.)

Let us do like the cuckoo too,

who takes what doesn't belong to him!

(It begins to grow dark.)

HANSEL (helping himself again).

Cuckoo, how are you?


Cuckoo, cuckoo, where are you?


In your neighbor's nest you go.

GRETEL (helping herself).

Cuckoo, cuckoo!


Cuckoo, why do you do so?

(Pours a handful of strawberries into his mouth.)


And you are very greedy too!

Tell me, cuckoo, why are you?


Cuckoo, cuckoo!

(They get rude and begin to quarrel for the strawberries. Hansel gains the victory, and puts the whole basket to his mouth until it is empty.)

GRETEL (horrified, clasping her hands together).

Hansel, what have you done?

O Heaven! all the strawberries eaten.

You glutton! Listen, you'll have a punishment

from the mother—this passes a joke!

HANSEL (quietly).

Now come, don't make such a fuss.

you, Gretel, you did the same thing yourself!


Come, we'll hurry and seek for fresh ones!


What, here in the dark, under hedges and bushes?

Why, naught can we see of fruit or leaves!

It's getting dark already here!


O Hansel! O Hansel! O what shall we do?

What bad disobedient children we've been!

We ought to have thought and gone home sooner!

(Cuckoo behind the scenes, rather nearer than before.)


Hark, what a noise in the bushes!

Know you what the forest says?

"Children, children," it says,

"Are you not afraid?"

(Hansel spies all around uneasily, at last he turns in despair to Gretel.)

Gretel, I cannot find the way!

GRETEL (dismayed).

O God! what say you?

Not know the way?

HANSEL (pretending to be very brave).

Why, how ridiculous you are!

I am a boy, and know not fear!


O Hansel, some dreadful thing may come!


O Gretel, come, don't be afraid!


What's glimmering there in the darkness?


That's only the birches in silver dress.


But there, what's grinning so there at me?

HANSEL (stammering).

Th—that's only the stump of a willow-tree.

GRETEL (hastily).

But what a dreadful form it takes,

and what a horrid face it makes!

HANSEL (very loud).

Come, I'll make faces, you fellow!

D'you hear?

GRETEL (terrified).

There, see! a lantern,

it's coming this way!


Will o' the wisp is hopping about—

Gretel, come, don't lose heart like this!

Wait, I'll give a good loud call!

(Goes back some steps to the back of the stage and calls through his hands.)

Who's there?


You there!


(The children cower together.)


Is someone there?




GRETEL (softly).

Did you hear? a voice said, "Here!"

Hansel, surely someone's near.


I'm frightened, I'm frightened,

I wish I were home!

I see the wood all filled with goblin forms!


Gretelkin, stick to me close and tight,

I'll shelter you, I'll shelter you!

(A thick mist rises and completely hides the background.)


I see some shadowy women coming!

See, how they nod and beckon, beckon!

They're coming, they're coming,

they'll take us away!

(Crying out, rushes horror-struck under the tree and falls on her knees, hiding herself behind Hansel.)

Father! mother! Ah!


See there, the mankin, sister dear!

I wonder who the mankin is?

(At this moment the mist lifts on the left. A little grey man is seen with a little sack on his back.)

    Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 4: Hansel and Gretel - Act 2, Scene 1

by Engelbert Humperdinck

Performer: Musopen Symphony


Study the musical selection for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the synopsis.
  • Review any vocabulary terms.
  • Read about the composer.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


The second act shows a forest. Gretel weaves a garland of wild roses while Hansel searches for strawberries. It is sunset, and the Ilsestein looms high in the background. Hansel crowns Gretel queen of the wood, and she allows him to taste a strawberry. He gives her one in return and little by little the children devour all of the gathered strawberries. When the children realize what they have done, they become frightened. They want to pick more strawberries, but it is getting too dark. Hansel and Gretel want to leave but cannot find the way. Gretel fears being in the dark. She sees faces in trees and stumps and Hansel calls out to reassure her. When his echo answers, and Hansel grows frightened too. The children huddle together as a thick mist arises and hides the Ilsestein. Gretel, terror-stricken, falls on her knees and hides behind Hansel. At this moment a little man appears. The mist begins to rise, and the little man quiets the children [1].


Ilsestein: A well-known rock formation in the German mountains of Harz.
Nosegay: A small bunch of fragrant flowers or herbs tied in a bundle.
Mantle: A cloak.
Mankin: A little man.
Garland: A wreath, especially one of plaited flowers or leaves, worn on the body or draped as a decoration.
Cuckoo: The common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, that has a characteristic two-note call.
Will o' the Wisp: A strange light that attracts travelers from pathways into dangerous marshes or graveyards.
Score (Musical): The written form of a musical composition showing all instrumental and/or vocal parts.


  1. Engelbert Humperdinck was born in 1854 in Siegburg, Germany. Examine his picture.
  2. Zoom in and find Humperdinck's country of birth on the map of Europe below.
  3. Humperdinck took piano lessons starting at a young age and wrote his first composition at the age of seven.
  4. Humperdinck's parents disapproved of his music aspirations, wanting him to become an architect.
  5. Humperdinck persevered, earning a scholarship to study music and eventually becoming a music professor at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany.
  6. Humperdinck died at the age of 67 after suffering two heart attacks.


Activity 1: Recite the Opera Information

  • Recite the name of the composer, the name of the opera, and the act and scene(s) of the opera.

Activity 2: Recite the Dramatis Personae

Read aloud the Dramatis Personae.

  • Peter, Broom-maker.
  • Gertrude, his wife.
  • Hansel, their son.
  • Gretel, their daughter.
  • The Witch who eats children.
  • Sandman, the Sleep Fairy.
  • Dewman, the Dawn Fairy.
  • Children.
  • The Fourteen Angels.

Activity 3: Listen to the Opera While Reading the Text

  • Select roles to read as desired.
  • Play the opera music softly in the background.
  • Read aloud the scene according to your selected roles.

Activity 4: Narrate the Lesson

  • Narrate the lesson events aloud in your own words.

Activity 5: Examine the Musical Score

  • A musical score is the written form of a musical composition showing all instrumental and/or vocal parts.
  • Examine the cover page from the musical score of 'Hansel and Gretel.'
  • Who is the composer of 'Hansel and Gretel?'
  • Who is the librettist of 'Hansel and Gretel?'
  • Which year was this musical score published?
  • Which city names appear on the page and in which countries do they reside?


  1. 'Metropolitan Opera House Grand Opera Libretto Hansel und Gretel - A Fairy Opera in Three Acts by Adelheid Wette (CC0 1.0)' Archive.org. https://archive.org/details/hnselgretelfai00humpuoft/. n.p.
  2. 'Hansel and Gretel Score, Music by Engelbert Humperdinck (CC0 1.0)' Musopen.org. https://musopen.org/music/31206-hansel-und-gretel/. n.p.