The German composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, produced his first composition after receiving piano lessons when he was only 7. He wrote many pieces for the stage, but his chief reputation rests on his opera Hänsel und Gretel, which was produced at Weimar, 1893.
While in Berlin as head of composition at the Meister-Schule, Humperdinck began work on Hänsel und Gretel after his sister asked him to compose music for a play for her children in 1890. He first started to compose Hänsel und Gretel, based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, as a Singspiel consisting of a play with 16 songs and piano accompaniment. A few months later, he presented his fiancèe Hedwig Taxer with Hänsel und Gretel as an engagement present. Quickly realizing the work's potential, Engelbert Humperdinck instead decided to create a full-scale opera, and in January of 1891 he began working on a complete orchestration. Nearly three years later Richard Strauss - who dubbed it "a masterpiece of the highest quality… all of it original, new, and so authentically German" - conducted its premiere. With its highly original synthesis of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs, Hänsel und Gretel was an instant and overwhelming success. It was such a success that in 1923 it became the first complete opera ever to be broadcast on radio (from Covent Garden, London), and eight years later it was the first to be transmitted live from the Metropolitan Opera. Tragically, it was at about the same time that Humperdinck developed a hearing affliction and remained partially deaf for the rest of his life.
(Bio selections taken from http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Humperdinck-Engelbert.htm)