Photo by Les Koob
The University of Minnesota Opera Theatre's Cunning Little Vixen
Opera lovers have a rare treat this month, when the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre presents Leoš Janácek’s charming fantasy The Cunning Little Vixen. It’s the first time the opera has been staged in Minnesota. “I’ve been a lover of Janácek for a long time,” says director David Walsh. “I saw a lot of it when working in England, Scotland, and Germany. Most of his pieces are very dark, but the spirit of this one is so bright and positive.”
The Cunning Little Vixen tells the story of a number of woodland creatures (the vixen, badger, owl, and mosquito) and their interactions with the nearby humans (forester, poacher, preacher, and schoolteacher). Though primarily a comedy, mostly at the expense of the humans, it’s serious as well: The vixen is ultimately killed. But that turns into a celebration of the eternal cycle of life.
Walsh assistant-directed a production of the opera at the Scottish National Opera under Sir Charles Mackerras, whose English translation he’s using here. He wants to make the opera accessible, insisting that it is a show for all ages, including young children. Called a ballet-opera, it will use students from the St. Paul Conservatory as dancers and members of the Metropolitan Boys Choir for the children’s roles.
Why would iPad-savvy kids want to see an opera set in the woods? “It demonstrates how estranged we are from nature in our technological era, how removed we are from that essence,” Walsh says. “That adds an element of absolute up-to-datedness to it.” April 10–13. Ted Mann Concert Hall, U of M, music.umn.edu/ensembles/opera