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San Diego Opera’s 8-Foot Tall Puppet

The witch costume for the troupe's Hansel & Gretel performance takes two grown men to operate

By Sarah Pfledderer

Object of Interest – Hansel and Gretel Witch Puppet

Object of Interest – Hansel and Gretel Witch Puppet

Nate Hoffman

It takes not one, but two adults to operate this eight-foot-tall puppet, on loan from the Vancouver Opera to our San Diego Opera for its Hansel and Gretel performance February 8–16 at the Civic Theatre.

Created by the famed Old Trout Puppet Workshop, the costume is for the witch, who requires some teamwork to operate. One puppeteer straps into the back of the costume to hold up the frame and uses poles to control the witch’s head, while tenor Joel Sorensen (not pictured) is expected to control the arms and sing his arias without a mic. As is customary of this puppetry form, bunraku, Sorensen will be visible during the show (like puppeteer Iain Gunn is here).

But why make the character so tall? San Diego Opera’s director of public relations, Edward Wilensky, explains that since the children Hansel and Gretel are played by adults, other characters were scaled up. It’s unusual, he admits, “but opera’s all about being larger than life!”

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