Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 6: Hansel and Gretel - Act 3, Scenes 1 - 2

by Engelbert Humperdinck

Performer: Robert Rønnes


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. Scene the same as the end of Act II. The background is still hidden in mist, which gradually rises during the following. The angels have vanished. Morning is breaking. The Dawn Fairy steps forward and shakes dewdrops from a bluebell over the sleeping children.)

DEWMAN (Dawn Fairy).

I'm up with early dawning,

and know who loves the morning,

who'll rise fresh as a daisy,

who'll sink in slumber lazy!

Ding! dong! ding! dong!

And with the golden light of day

I chase the fading night away,

fresh dew around me shaking,

and hill and dale awaking.

Then up, with all your powers

enjoy the morning hours,

the scent of trees and flowers—

then up, ye sleepers, awaken!

The rosy dawn is smiling,

then up, ye sleepers, awake, awake!

(Hurries off singing. The children begin to stir. Gretel rubs her eyes, looks around her, and raises herself a little, whilst Hansel turns over on the other side to go to sleep again.)


Where am I? Waking? Or do I dream?

How come I in the wood to lie?

High in the branches I hear a gentle twittering,

birds are beginning to sing so sweetly.

from early dawn they are all awake,

and warble their morning hymn of praise.

Dear little singers, little singers,

good morning!

(Turns to Hansel.)

See there, the sleepy lazybones?

Wait now, I'll wake him!

Tirelireli, it's getting late!

Tirelireli, it's getting late!

The lark his flight is winging,

on high his matin singing,

Tirelireli! tirelireli!

HANSEL (suddenly jumps up with a start).

Kikeriki! it's early yet!

Kikeriki! it's early yet!

Yes, the day is dawning.

awake, for it is morning!

Kikeriki! kikeriki!

I feel so well, I know not why!

I never slept so well, no, not I!


But listen, Hans. Here 'neath the tree

a wondrous dream was sent to me!

HANSEL (meditatively).

Really! I, too, had a dream!


I fancied I heard a murmuring and rushing,

as though the angels in Heav'n were singing.

rosy clouds above me were floating—

hovering and floating in the distance away,

Sudden—all around a light was streaming,

rays of glory from Heaven beaming,

and a golden ladder saw I descending,

angels adown it gliding,

such lovely angels with shining golden wings.

HANSEL (interrupting her quickly).

Fourteen angels there must have been!

GRETEL (astonished).

And did you also behold all this?


Truly, 'twas wondrous fair!

And upward I saw them float.

(He turns towards the background. At this moment the last remains of the mist clear away. In place of the fir-trees is seen the "Witch's house at the Ilsestein," shining in the rays of the rising sun. A little distance off, to the left, is an oven. Opposite this, on the right, a large cage, both joined to the Witch's house by a fence of gingerbread figures.)


GRETEL (holds Hansel back in astonishment).

Stand still, be still!

Hansel (surprised).

O Heaven, what wondrous place is this,

as never in all my life have I seen!

GRETEL (gradually regains her self-possession).

What odor delicious!

O say, do I dream?


A cottage all made

of chocolate cream.

The roof is all covered

with Turkish delight

the windows with luster

of sugar are white.

and on all the gables

the raisins invite,

and think! all around

is a gingerbread hedge!

O magic castle,

how nice you'd be to eat!

Where hides the princess

who has so great a treat?

Ah, could she but visit

our little cottage bare,

she'd ask us to dinner,

her dainties to share!

HANSEL (after a while).

No sound do I hear. No, nothing is stirring!

Come, let's go inside it!

GRETEL (pulling him back horrified).

Are you senseless?

Hansel, however can you make so bold?

Who knows who may live there,

in that lovely house?


O look, do look how the house seems to smile!


Ah, the angels did our footsteps beguile!

GRETEL (reflectively).

The angels? Yes, it must be so!


Yes, Gretel, the angels are beck'ning us in!

Come, let's nibble a bit of the cottage.


Come, let's nibble it,

like two mice persevering!

(They hop along, hand in hand, towards the back of the stage. Then stand still, and then steal along cautiously on tiptoe to the house. After some hesitation Hansel breaks off a bit of cake from the right-hand corner.)

    Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 6: Hansel and Gretel - Act 3, Scenes 1 - 2

by Engelbert Humperdinck

Performer: Robert Rønnes


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.


In the third act, the scene is the same, and the mist still hides the background. The Dawn Fairy shakes dewdrops on the children. They wake, but Hansel very lazily. They both have had dreams of angels coming to see them with shining wings. The mist now clears away and in the background the witches' house with a fence of gingerbread figures appears. An oven and a cage become visible near the house. Hansel wants to go inside the house, but Gretel draws him back. Hansel argues the angels beguiled their footsteps so why they shouldn't nibble a bit at the cottage? The children tiptoe to the fence and cautiously break off a bit of the cake [1].


Bluebell: Various flowering plants with blue, pendulous flowers.
Warble: To sing like a bird, especially with trills.
Lark: Any of various small, singing birds.
Martin: Any of various passerine birds, including swallows, which catch insects while flying.
Turkish Delight: A soft, sticky confection made from starch and sugar with various flavorings.
Gable: The triangular area at the peak of two sloped roof surfaces.


  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 Libretto

A libretto is the text or dialog of a dramatic musical work, such as an opera.

Study the cover of the libretto for 'Hansel and Gretel' and answer the following:

  • What is the name of the opera house that conducted the opera?
  • Where was the opera house located?
  • Who published this libretto?
  • How much did the libretto originally cost?


  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.