It’s not often one recommends listening to the final track of a recording first but it pays dividends here. You may think you know Hansel and Gretelbut the appended verse version – nicely concise – by Amy Mansfield is an excellent memory-jogger and a clever summation of Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2019 stage production. Read enticingly by Jonny Brugh, it has a backdrop of music extracted from Claire Cowan’s scrumptious score.

Claire Cowan's Hansel and Gretel

With the ballet’s 1920s setting as her springboard, Cowan gleefully dives into the sound worlds of silent movies, jazz and early Broadway. Her music overflows with vibrant colours and restless energy, given voice by an eclectic range of instruments including finger cymbals, tenor and baritone sax, celeste, musical bones and pots and pans alongside the usual complement of strings, woodwinds and brass.

The story’s underlying darkness get its due with Cowan often using low instruments as an underscore to higher, more nimble forces. But in this telling of the tale the light always wins out and a handful of stardust is never...

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