One advantage of watching opera “on demand” is that it allows you to go back in time. Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1893 Hansel and Gretel featured in a series of English language operas put on by the Met Opera in 2008, using David Pountney’s English translation of the original German libretto. Humperdinck’s tuneful three-act opera is an engrossing interpretation of the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale, which retains the story’s original darkness, while also injecting it with some childish humour, all spurred on by dramatic and charming scoring. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski brings out the best in the Met Opera Orchestra which, coupled with stellar singing, makes this large-scale musical into a warm operatic experience.

The Met’s usual behind-the-scenes introduction is kept brief by Renée Fleming, before the cameras provide a backstage preview of John Macfarlane’s costumes, which make the production a visual joy. The overture opens with the instantly recognisable arpeggio-based theme that recurs throughout the opera. Its most famous incarnation, the aria “Where each child lays down his head” in Act II, remains timeless, and is extremely well sung by mezzo-soprano Alice Coote as Hansel and soprano Christine Schäfer as Gretel. Schäfer can’t shake off her German accent, but that hardly detracts from an impressive performance. Her voice sounds particularly lovely in folksong-like solos such as “A dwarf stood in the forest but never spoke” at the start of Act II.

Meanwhile Ms. Coote’s acting is second to none and she is more than capable of the vocal part. Relatively speaking, there isn’t a lot of technically complex singing in this opera, but it does need to be brought to life with constant energy and some committed acting from all roles. Ms. Coote and Ms. Schäfer both fit neatly into the demands of their children’s roles, galumphing about with appropriate inelegance and vulnerability when called for.

This Richard Jones production was new when this recording was made, although it’s been revived with almost equal success with different singers in the lead roles. The production is notable for the fact that the Witch is sung by a tenor rather than a mezzo-soprano. In this role Philip Langridge is brilliant, taking his small part in Act III to somewhere between pantomime dame and menacing villain. Two other brief but noteworthy characters are American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s Sandman – a gorgeous voice to contrast with a brilliantly ugly prosthetic mask – and Alan Held as the perfectly hopeless father.

Food features heavily. After all, this is at least partly a tale about the perils of greed. Most scenes feature a table, including the orchestral “Dream pantomime” in the forest, where the sleeping children enjoy a dreamed-up banquet provided by cartoonish cooks. The plot is certainly more suited to children than adults, with its slightly cloying moral streak and unashamed touches of magic. Even its darker moments, such as the witch’s defeated, baked body, are quirky rather than shocking to the adult audience. But it offers pure escapism, for adults as well as children. And with Mr. Jurowski keeping things so interesting in the pit and the singers inhabiting their roles so well, there’s little not to like.