This February, English National Opera (ENO) will present an exciting new production of one of Leoš Janáček’s most enduring operas, The Cunning Little Vixen, for the first time since 2001.
Directed by Jamie Manton and conducted by ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins, the new production will open at London Coliseum on 18 February 2022 and play 7 performances until 1 March 2022, including a Relaxed Performance on 26 February 2022 at 14.30.
Composed towards the end of his life, the opera incorporates distinctive Moravian folk songs and rhythms, key parts of Janáček’s oeuvre. With a libretto from a serialised novella published in Czech newspaper Lidové noviny, the opera tells the story of a young vixen – Sharp Ears – captured by a Forester.
On the surface, a comic story about a clever fox, the opera also offers deeper philosophical reflections and tragedy, possibly influenced by Janáček’s unrequited love for a younger married woman: inspiring his characterisation of the Vixen. This new production is contemporarily staged, contrasting the ageing human world with the regenerating animal kingdom.
The Cunning Little Vixen will star sopranos Sally Matthews in the titular role of the Vixen, South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza as the Fox, American baritone Lester Lynch as the Forester, British tenor Alan Oke as both the Schoolmaster and the Mosquito, British bass Clive Bayley as both the Priest and the Badger, British-bass baritone Ossian Huskinson as Harašta the Poacher, British soprano Gweneth-Ann Rand as the Innkeeper’s Wife and the Chief Hen, British mezzo-soprano and current ENO Harewood Artist Claire Barnett-Jones as the Dog, Australian soprano and ENO Harewood Artist Alexandra Oomens as Pepík and the Woodpecker, and Welsh soprano Ffion Edwards as both Frantík and the Jay.
They are joined by four adolescent roles, cast via ENO Engage’s (the ENO’s learning and participation department) Opera Squad partner secondary schools and youth programme. Completing the cast are 20 children singing the roles of the Vixen’s fox cubs and other woodland creatures. All in years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11), the majority have been cast from two local Westminster primary schools, marking the start of their new partnership with ENO Engage.
The creative team for The Cunning Little Vixen includes Tony Award-nominee Tom Scutt (Set & Costume Designer), Lucy Carter (Lighting Designer), and Jenny Ogilvie (Movement Director). Translation is by Robert T. Jones and Yveta Synek Graff.