Opera Scotland

'Vixen' at St Andrews

Posted 16 May 2017

For this summer's production, Byre Opera, the opera company of the University of St Andrews, presents Janácek's much-loved opera, The Cunning Little Vixen.


In his search for plots for his operas, Janacek was notable for using unusually diverse sources. The story of The Cunning Little Vixen is drawn from a comic strip based on folk tales of the adventures of a fox. This amusing yet engaging and ultimately serious opera follows her through the seasons, from capture as a young animal, to her escape and eventual fate.

It embraces themes of nature, of the cycles of life and the seasons, and the meeting of the human and animal worlds.



The cast comprises current St Andrews students, including soprano Catherine Hooper in the title role, as well as 11-year-old Ben Clark from St Andrews and 10-year-old Oliver Marshall from Dunbar.

Other contributions come from students of French, Italian, Classics and English. The Cunning Little Vixen is directed by PJ Harris, with sets and lighting designed by Victor Labarthe d'Arnoux.

These are the first Scottish performances of the English translation of The Cunning Little Vixen by Yveta Synek Graff and Robert T. Jones. The production features Jonathan Dove's orchestral reduction, performed by the Orchestra of Byre Opera, and conducted by Dr Michael Downes, Director of Music at the University of St Andrews.



In Harris' production, the set gradually transforms from an office to a forest. This pointed observation on the increasingly bureaucratic role of the forester in the 21st century is echoed in Antonin Boyot-Gelliber's extraordinary origami costume designs.

Harris commented: "The Cunning Little Vixen explores our relationship with nature and I can't think of a more inspiring place to work on this piece than St Andrews. It is incredibly exciting to work with the talented young performers of the University of St Andrews who are able to use their academic intellect to create such meaningful characters. This is going to be a really special show!"


Education and outreach

Alongside the production, an education outreach programme will take place, curated by Ellen Thomson.

Around 60 S 1-3 pupils at Beath and Glenwood High Schools will explore the issues underlying the opera and this production.

Pupils will work with composer Pippa Murphy and take part in workshops in art and science to develop a multi-media installation in response to the story, its themes and ideas.

The resulting installation will be showcased in the Byre Theatre from Friday 16 June to Friday 23 June. Pupils will attend the dress rehearsal and have the opportunity to meet the cast and production team. 

Following three performances at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June, the production will tour to the Maltings Theatre in Berwick-upon-Tweed on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June.

Go to our listing to book a ticket here:-


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