Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 8: Hansel and Gretel - Act 3, Scene 3 Part 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.



Now, little man,

come prithee enjoy yourself!

(Sticking a raisin into Hansel's mouth.)

Eat, minion, eat or die!

Here are cakes, O so nice!

(Turns to Gretel and disenchants her with a juniper-branch.)

Hocus pocus, elder-bush!

Rigid body loosen, hush!

(Gretel moves again.)

Now up and move again, bright and blithesome,

limbs are become again supple and lithesome.

Go, my poppet, go my pet,

you the table now shall set,

little knife, little fork, little dish, little plate,

little serviette for my little mate!

Now get everything ready and nice,

or else I shall lock you up too in a trice!

(She threatens and titters. Gretel hurries off. The Witch, to Hansel, who pretends to be asleep.)

The fool is slumb'ring, it does seem queer

how youth can sleep and have no fear!

Well, sleep away, you simple sheep,

soon you will sleep your last long sleep!

But first with Gretel I'll begin—

off you, dear maiden, I will dine.

you are so tender, plump, and good,

just the thing for witches' food!

(She opens the oven door and sniffs in it, her face lighted up by the deep red glare of the fire.)

The dough has risen, so we'll go on preparing.

Hark, how the sticks in the fire are crackling!

(She pushes a couple more branches under, the fire flames up and then dies down again. The Witch rubbing her hands with glee.)

Yes, Gretel mine,

how well off you I'll dine!

See, see, O how sly!

When in the oven she's peeping,

quickly behind her I'm creeping!

One little push, bang

goes the door, clang!

Then soon will Gretel be

just done to a T!

and when from the oven I take her

she'll look like a cake from the baker,

by magic fire red

changed into gingerbread!

See, see how sly!

Hi hi! hi hi!

(In her wild delight she seizes a broomstick and begins to ride upon it.)

So hop, hop, hop,

gallop, lop, lop!

My broomstick nag,

come do not lag!

(She rides excitedly around on the broomstick.)

At dawn of day

I ride away,

am here and there

and everywhere!

(She rides again. Gretel meanwhile is watching at the window.)

At midnight hour, when none can know,

to join the witches' dance I go!

And three and four

are witches' lore,

and five and six

are witches' tricks,

and nine is one,

and ten is none,

and seven is nil,

or what she will!

And thus they ride till dawn of day!

(Hopping madly along, she rides to the back of the stage and vanishes for a time behind the cottage. Here the Witch becomes visible again. She comes to the foreground, where she suddenly pulls up and dismounts.)

Prr, broomstick, hi!

(She hobbles back to the stable and tickles Hansel with a birch twig till he awakes.)

Up, awake, my mankin young.

come show to me your tongue!

(Hansel puts his tongue out. The Witch smacks with her tongue.)

Dainty morsel! dainty morsel!

Little toothsome mankin come,

now let me see your thumb!

(Hansel pokes out a small bone.)

Gemini! Oho!

O how scraggy, how lean!

Urchin, you're a scraggy one,

as bad as a skeleton!


Maiden, Gretel!

(Gretel appears at the door.)

Bring some raisins and almonds sweet,

Hansel wants some more to eat.

(Gretel runs into the house, and returns immediately with a basket full of almonds and raisins.)


Here are the almonds.

(Whilst the Witch is feeding Hansel, Gretel gets behind her and makes the gestures of disenchantment with the juniper-branch.)

GRETEL (softly).

Hocus pocus, elder-bush,

Rigid body loosen, hush!

THE WITCH (turning suddenly round).

What were you saying, little goose?

GRETEL (confusedly).

Only—much good may it do to Hans!



GRETEL (louder).

Much good may it do to Hans!


He he he, my little miss,

I'll stop your mouth with this!

(Sticks a raisin into Gretel's mouth.)

Eat, minion, eat or die!

Here are cakes, O so nice!

(She opens the oven door. The heat has apparently diminished. Meanwhile Hansel makes violent signs to Gretel.)

HANSEL (softly opening the stable door).

Sister dear,

O beware!

THE WITCH (looking greedily at Gretel).

She makes my mouth water,

this pretty little daughter!

Come, Gretel mine,

sugar-maiden mine!

(Gretel comes towards her.)

Peep in the oven, be steady,

see if the gingerbread's ready!

Carefully look, pet,

whether it's cooked yet,

but if it wants more,

shut quick the door!

(Gretel hesitates.)

HANSEL (slipping out of the stable).

Sister dear,

have a care!

GRETEL (making herself out very awkward).

I don't understand what I have to do!


Just stand on tip-toe,

head bending forward.

try it, I pray,

it's merely play!

HANSEL (pulling Gretel back by her frock).

Sister dear,

now take care!

GRETEL (shyly).

I'm such a goose, don't understand!

You'll have to show me

how to stand on tip-toe!

THE WITCH (makes a movement of impatience).

Do as I say,

it's merely play!

(She begins creeping up to the oven, muttering all the time, and just as she is bending over it, Hansel and Gretel give her a good push, which sends her toppling over into it, upon which they quickly shut the door.)

HANSEL and GRETEL (mocking her).

Then "One little push, bang

goes the door, clang!"

You, not Gretel, then will be

just done to a T!

(Hansel and Gretel fall into one another's arms.)


Hurrah! now sing the witch is dead,

really dead!

No more to dread!

Hurrah! now sing the witch is still,

deathly still!

We can eat our fill!

Now all the spell is o'er,

really o'er!

We fear no more!

(They seize each other's hands.)

Yes, let us happy be,

dancing so merrily.

now the old witch is gone,

we'll have no end of fun!

Hey! hurrah, hurrah!

Hip hurrah! Hip hurrah!

(They take each other around the waist and waltz together, first in the front of the stage, and then gradually in the direction of the Witch's house. When they get there Hansel breaks loose from Gretel and rushes into the house, shutting the door after him. Then from the upper window he throws down apples, pears, oranges, gilded nuts, and all kinds of sweetmeats into Gretel's outstretched apron. Meanwhile the oven begins crackling loudly, and the flames burn high. Then there is a loud crash, and the oven falls thundering into bits. Hansel and Gretel, who in their terror let their sweetmeats all fall down, hurry towards the oven startled, and stand there motionless. Their astonishment increases when they become aware of a troop of children around them, whose disguise of cakes has fallen from them.)

HANSEL and GRETEL (spoken).

There, see those little children dear,

I wonder how they all came here!

    Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 8: Hansel and Gretel - Act 3, Scene 3 Part 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.


The witch disenchants Gretel with her magic stick and remarks how nice and plump she'll be when she's roasted brown. The witch opens the oven and puts more wood under it. The witch says the fire will soon be ripe to push Gretel in. In her joy, the witch rides wildly around on a broomstick while Gretel watches from the house. The witch calls Gretel out and opens the oven door. When the witch tells Gretel to peep in the oven, Hansel warns his sister to beware. Gretel pretends she does not understand how to look into the oven. Gretel secretly disenchants Hansel so that when the witch bends over and peeps into the oven, the children give her a big push and in she goes into the flames. The children celebrate their freedom, dancing wildly about. When the oven cracks open and falls into bits, groups of children suddenly surround Hansel and Gretel [1].


Prithee: Please.
Blithesome: Happy or carefree.
Lithesome: Nimble, pliant, or limber.
Urchin: A mischievous child.


  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 a page of the libretto for 'Hansel and Gretel' and answer the following:

  • In which language is this libretto page written?
  • Which act and scene are represented on this page?
  • What is the setting of this scene?
  • Recite the names of any characters you recognize.


  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.