ENGELBERT Humperdinck. The name of the German composer of the late-19th and early-20th centuries is sewn into musical legend.

Partly, it must be ­admitted, that’s because, the English crooner Arnold George Dorsey ­somewhat brazenly borrowed the composer’s ­monicker in the 1960s, and has used it as his stage name ever since. However, for those with an orientation towards ­classical music, it is also, in large part, due to the German’s penning of the much loved 1893 opera based on the Brothers Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Gretel.

The story, in which the titular child siblings find themselves lost in a forest and threatened by a malevolent witch, has strong metaphorical possibilities in our Covid-stricken times. In that sense, Humperdinck’s magnum opus provides the perfect basis for Scottish Opera’s ­latest made-for-lockdown film.

The movie, which is released (free to view) online on Wednesday, has been ­directed by opera and film artist Daisy Evans. The director was the founder of the acclaimed, innovative company ­Silent Opera.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Evans was in the midst of creating a co-production of Hansel and Gretel with companies in China and Italy. Thanks to Covid-19, those shows have, sadly, been cancelled.

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However, as she explains, her work on that staging hasn’t gone entirely to waste. Many of the ideas she had for the production have found their way into her film for Scottish Opera.

“The show I had designed was a very obviously modern production,” she says. During a conversation with Alex Reedijk, the general director of Scottish Opera, Evans discovered that the 21st-century concept of her abandoned show fitted well with Reedijk’s idea for a movie.

What online audiences will see, the ­director explains, is more of a staged ­concert than a full operatic production. “Because it’s stripped back, it’s more about presenting ideals or pictures of who these characters are.”

Conceptually, Evans’s telling of the tale is rooted very much in contemporary concerns about climate change. “The main driving force behind the concept is that Hansel, Gretel and their parents are very much living off the land,” says the director.

“Yes, they’re in poverty, but they’re very interested in an eco life, a greener life. The parents won’t let Hansel and Gretel have plastic toys or iPads.

“On the one hand, they can’t afford it, but, on the other, they don’t agree with it morally.”

As if to prove that every work of art is autobiographical at some level, Evans notes a connection between the opening image of her movie and little details from her own childhood. “At the beginning, we see Hansel and Gretel cutting out pictures from the Argos catalogue and imagining they had those things.

“It’s quite tragic,” she says, laughing, “but I used to do it as a kid.”

If the lives of the eponymous ­children reflect a recognisable strand of ­contemporary parenting, the witch, too, is a very modern symbol. She represents, the director comments, “the bad, plastic, shiny world” that Hansel and Gretel’s environmentally savvy parents abhor, but which the youngsters themselves yearn for.

Evans is keen to emphasise the ­modernity of her filming of the opera. “I don’t want people to think it’s like pantomime,” she says.

Rather, we should think of the ­movie, which was filmed on the stage of ­Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, as a ­coming together of a classical opera with a ­contemporary artistic sensibility. ­Evans’s 21st-century setting of the piece, which is sung in English, with the orchestra ­performing on-stage, is intended to ­complement the original opera.

“I think the way Humperdinck has ­interpreted the story is amazing,” Evans continues. “He concentrates on the idea of innocence in a way that’s similar to ­Peter Pan or His Dark Materials.

“It’s done really well, it’s not patronising. If anyone’s worried about this, ­thinking, ‘oh, it’s just going to be a kids’ fairytale’, it absolutely isn’t. There’s so much more to it than that.”

EVANS’S film, in which Kitty Whately plays Hansel and Rhian Lois plays Gretel, promises an intriguing combination of minimalism and opulence. Partly, this is down to the modest resources the director had at her disposal (don’t expect the kind of big bucks production values that one finds in Disney’s recent film of the stage musical Hamilton, for instance).

If the movie is pared back in some ­regards, it also promises a certain style. This speaks not only to Evans’s ­acclaimed imagination, but also to Humperdinck’s interpretation of the story.

“It’s not as terrifying as the ­Brothers Grimm original,” says Evans. “Humperdinck’s version puts in a lot of magic.

“That’s really because he was writing a piece of orchestral drama. He had the opportunity to use a beautiful colour ­pallete.”

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IN making the film, Evans was very much aware that, during the pandemic, theatre lovers have been subjected to a lot of well-intentioned, but somewhat lifeless online productions.

“I’m not a fan of just ­putting a theatre show on a camera,” Evans ­admits.

“Theatre can give away a lot of its ­secrets on film,” she adds. “In the ­theatre, we’re working with illusion. If you film that, you break the illusion.”

Her solution was to make a movie that is both tailored to the unique ­possibilities of film, but also respectful of the ­theatrical context of the piece.

So, for ­instance, although, like any ­opera film, her movie will often focus on an ­individual performer, it will also, from time to time, show the much-missed gilded grandeur of the Theatre Royal’s proscenium arch.

Evans is full of praise for Scottish ­Opera’s determination to keep ­producing work, both live (when conditions have ­allowed) and on film, throughout the public health crisis.

People are, she says, “really desperate” to see work by our great stage companies.

“Everyone’s tired of looking at Netflix and Prime and all of that kind of stuff,” she says. “I hope the film will help people get through these difficult times.”

Hansel and Gretel will be launched online on February 10 at 6pm. For more details, visit: scottishopera.org.uk