Hänsel und Gretel at the Artscape: an interview with Roger Ballen

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This April, Cape Town Opera presents the opera Hänsel und Gretel, by Engelbert Humperdinck. The theatre production is directed by Alessandro Talevi, with set and costume design by Roger Ballen and Marguerite Rossouw, and lighting design by Kobus Rossouw. (More information here: https://capetownopera.co.za/roger-ballen-designs-cape-town-operas-hansel-gretel.) 


Roger Ballen, internationally renowned artist-photographer, together with Marguerite Rossouw (his creative collaborator for the last 14 years), will design and implement a singular visual aesthetic for Hänsel und Gretel, a German opera by post-Wagnerian composer Engelbert Humperdinck.

Roger Ballen answered Naomi Meyer’s questions a few hours before the final dress rehearsal.

Roger, thank you for your time. You are famous internationally for your photographs and art. Your "strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with [you] on a journey into their own minds" (https://www.rogerballen.com/about/roger-ballen). From Die Antwoord to Hänsel und Gretel. Please tell our readers about your role, behind the scenes, of the Grimm brothers' fairytale at the Artscape?

The real Hansel and Gretel story is, in fact, quite grim and dark. Please elaborate on your designs and inspirations and interpretation of the story when you designed the set?

At this point in life, during pandemic times, do you not think people need to escape and enjoy positive vibes? What is the role of the arts now, at this stage, when some theatres are closed, when we are all lost in the woods, when birds have stolen all the bread crumbs and we don't know the way home anymore, when we don't know whether we can trust the little old lady in the sweetest confectionery house? What did you feel you wanted to show the theatregoers when you designed the set? Where do you plan to take your audiences? And do you think this is the place they need to be transported to? (Also: Can you see a way out of the woods for the arts?) 

Is this an opera for the whole family?

Music and graphic design … please talk about the interplay between the various artistic forms: opera, music, light, darkness. All the various narratives taking place – between theatregoers and actors, as well as the Grimm Brothers, involved as original creators of the story. When times have changed, and a virus has influenced everything, what has stayed the same and what has now entered the landscape of the world of art?

From 3 to 10 April 2021 at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town. Click here to book at Computicket.

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