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“Hansel and Gretel” opera tunes in crowds at OLPH

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Move over Lincoln Center, there’s a new gig in town that rocks the socks off its pricey peers.

Aficionados swooned alongside novices when the Martha Cardona Theater swept on stage at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School to perform “Hansel and Gretel,” alerting a new generation of music lovers to the majesty of opera.

Call the fully-staged costumed production of Englebert Humperdinck’s opus — set to the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale — a true grassroots effort: It featured a student chorus from the school, and flyers for it were created by 9-year-old artist-in-residence Annika Smith.

“Ninety percent of the audience had never seen an opera before,” said founder, president and “chief cook and bottle washer” Daniel Cardona, an actor, stage director and non-singing extra at the Metropolitan Opera House, who founded the company last year in memory of his beloved mother, Martha. She would have been hard-pressed to even attend an opera, he chuckled.

Cardona, who saw his own first opera just four years ago — Puccini’s “La Bohème” at the Met — is something of a road scholar when it comes to acquainting the community with the free or affordable productions of the time-honored art form which pairs singers and musicians with dramatic works.

The audience was quite taken by it, he proudly added.

“It was nice to introduce the beauty of opera to people who need to be exposed to it and need happiness in their life,” he commented.

Cardona’s company features plenty of professional singers, including members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, but it’s also a musical magnet for raw talent.

“Like fish need water, singers need to sing, and some of the most beautiful voices of our generation are singing in the shower and aren’t being heard by the masses,” he explained.

That’s where the Martha Cardona Theater comes in — with a flourish and a bow, to boot.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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