…but singers can crave. In no other opera do the thoughts of the characters revolve so fiercely around food and eating than in Hänsel und Gretel. Learn its vocabulary in this excerpt of my book Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas.
Singers of Hänsel und Gretel! Rent a venue, decorate it in part as a witch house, in part as a forest, and on a long table lay out all the foods we find mentioned in the libretto. If there is still space, have a piano and a stool for the accompanist, have the singers perform Hänsel und Gretel, have them sing and act out the verbs of devouring. After the performance, open the buffet and invite the audience to help themselves. It will be a feast.
What Hänsel and Gretel and their parents dream about
Butterwecken m = wedge-shaped roll baked with wheat and butter
Eierfladen m = pancake. Here, the emphasis lies on Eier (eggs, sing. Ei n) indicating that we are well-off when eggs are available to us.
trocken Brot n = dry bread; slices of bread without any butter, sausage, or cheese on top. This term reveals that we are not well-off right now.
Kümmel m = caraway
Leiblikör m = favorite liquor, Leib m = body
Rahm m = cream
Sahne f = whipped cream
Speck m = bacon
Wurst f = sausage, pl. Würste
Sweets at the House of the Knusperhexe
Dattel f = date, pl. Datteln
Johannisbrot n = carob, fruit of a Mediterranean tree
Jungfernleder n = an herb
Kuchen m = cake, e.g., Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Zauberkuchen (magic cake)
Rosine f = raisin
Teig m = dough
Torte f = rich cake often filled with whipped cream, also mentioned as Kuchen, gefüllt mit süßer Sahn’.
Zucker m = sugar
Verbs of Preparing and Eating Food
knuspern obs. = to munch
nagen = to nibble
naschen = to snack, mostly sweets and in secret. Naschen implies something fun. When you discover a little finger-mark running through a creamy cake, you ask your child, Wer hat hier genascht? (genascht: past participle of naschen)
schleckern = to suck on candies, to lick ice cream
schlucken = to swallow
schmecken = to taste
verschlecken = to eat all candies, all ice cream
Verbs of Eating with Incredible Enjoyment
ergötzen refl. = to take great pleasure in food; the preposition is an.
laben refl. = to refresh and enjoy oneself with good food and drink; the preposition is an. Ich labe mich an Schokoladentorte.
schmausen = to feast
Phrases Related to Food
am Hungertuch nagen = to starve; Hungertuch n is a decorated cloth that covers the image of Jesus in churches during Lent.
Ich habe dich zum Aufessen lieb = I love you so much I could eat you. Today, we say, ich habe dich zum Fressen gern. (fressen = to eat [for animals], to gorge oneself)
Du schmeckst nach mehr = You are so tasty that I want more.
Die Frist ist um
Navigate the Language
of 10 German Operas
by Bernd Hendricks