The forest comes alive in Victorian Opera’s new production of Leoš Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen. One of the great masterpieces of early twentieth century music, this rarely-heard opera will be staged for five performances only at Arts Centre Melbourne from 22 June 2017.
Janácek (Jenufa, Katya Kabanová) was aged 70 when the opera premiered in 1924. His music pulses with life and colour, majesty and grandeur; reflecting a great musical maturity and understanding of life. A celebration of the beauty of nature and cycle of life, Cunning Little Vixen muses on the interaction between human and animal life. Set in an idyllic forest, the story follows a Vixen’s lyrical journey from youth to adulthood.
Director Stuart Maunder AM returns to Victorian Opera following his acclaimed Sondheim trilogy. He is reunited with Tony Award-winning costume designer Roger Kirk (The King and I, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd), legendary set designer Richard Roberts (Fiddler on the Roof, Nixon in China, My Fair Lady) and lauded lighting designer Trudy Dalgleish (Georgy Girl, Hairspray, The Boy from Oz).
“On the surface, Cunning Little Vixen is simple enough: a musical biography of a fox based on a comic strip filled with furry familiars, says Maunder. “It could be seen as little more than an opera for children, but it’s impossible to dismiss. It contains some of the most moving music ever written, vivifying life’s most profound and eternal truths.”
Maunder’s production draws upon man-made materials to capture the whimsy and the enchantment of the forest. “Human fashions and accessories are repurposed to create the host of vibrantly coloured animal characters,” says Maunder. “Similarly, manufactured materials are reinvented to create the natural world; Wood is bleached of its colour, processed if you like, steel tortured into trees, cotton woven into flat surfaces, those surfaces brought to brilliant seasonal colour by light.”
Contemporary Australian composer and conductor Jack Symonds, Artistic Director of Sydney Chamber Opera, conducts the Jonathan Dove chamber re-orchestration of the opera in his VO debut. The production marks Symonds return to the work, having conducted Sydney Chamber Opera’s production of Cunning Little Vixen in 2011.
Australian soprano Celeste Lazarenko leads the cast as Vixen Sharpears in her company debut. She appears alongside Antoinette Halloran (Banquet of Secrets, Sweeney Todd) as the Fox, and Barry Ryan (The Riders, Nixon in China) as the Forester. The cast of 27 singers also includes Samuel Dundas, Jeremy Kleeman, Dimity Shepherd and Brenton Spiteri as well as members of the Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE).
A joyous, life-affirming treat for all lovers of music and theatre, the 90 minute opera is sung in English and considered a perfect introduction to opera for families and first-timers.
Cunning Little Vixen
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 22 June – 1 July 2017
For more information, visit: www.victorianopera.com.au for details.
Image: Antoinette Halloran and Celeste Lazarenko star in Victorian Opera’s production of Cunning Little Vixen – photo by Charlie Kinross