Hansel and Gretel Composer Engelbert Humperdinck, 1854 - 1921

German composer Engelbert Humperdinck lived from 1 September 1854 to 27 September 1921. His opera Hansel and Gretel is well known (1893)

At age seven, after taking piano instruction, he composed his first piece. Two singspiele he wrote when he was 13 were his first attempts at theatrical works. His parents wanted him to pursue architecture instead of music, and they opposed his intentions for a musical career. But in 1872, he started taking lessons in music from Ferdinand Hiller and Isidor Seiss at the Cologne Conservatory.

He was awarded a scholarship in 1876, allowing him to travel to Munich and pursue his studies under Franz Lachner and later Josef Rheinberger. He received the inaugural Mendelssohn Award in 1879 from the Berlin-based Mendelssohn Stiftung (foundation).

He traveled to Italy, where he met composer Richard Wagner in Naples. In Bayreuth, Humperdinck accepted Wagner’s invitation to stay with him, and in the years 1880 and 1881, he helped with the Parsifal production. Additionally, he taught music to Siegfried Wagner, Wagner’s son.

Play Hansel and Gretel Overture on Spotify (full length available for free on open.spotify.com):

Humperdinck visited Italy, France, and Spain after taking home a second prize. He served as a professor at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu Conservatory for two years. He returned to Cologne in 1887. In 1890, he was appointed professor at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He was also Julius Stockhausen’s Vocal School’s harmony instructor. By this point, he had written a number of choral compositions as well as a popular German Humoreske for a small orchestra.

Six more operas, notably Dornröschen (1902; “Sleeping Beauty”) and Königskinder (1910; “Royal Children”), were written by Humperdinck between 1895 and 1919, but neither these nor the performance Das Mirakel (1911; “The Miracle”) raised his stature. He also composed songs, the orchestral work Maurische Rhapsodie (1898), a string quartet, compositions for piano, and incidental music for plays by Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and Maeterlinck.


Humperdinck attended school in Munich and Cologne. He was able to travel to Italy in 1879 thanks to a Mendelssohn scholarship, and there he met Richard Wagner, who asked him to help with the Bayreuth production of Parsifal. He served as the music critic for the Frankfurter Zeitung while working as a professor at Frankfurt am Main (1890–1966) and the Barcelona Conservatory (1885–87). Early works included the choral ballads Humoreske (1879) for orchestra, Das Glück von Edenhall (1884), and Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar (1878, The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar).