The Cunning Little Vixen

Salvation Army, 92 Vivian St, Wellington

27/03/2009 - 02/04/2009

The Centre, Kerikeri

29/01/2010 - 29/01/2010

Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

01/02/2010 - 01/02/2010

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

27/01/2010 - 27/01/2010

Baycourt - Addison Theatre, Tauranga

03/02/2010 - 03/02/2010

Production Details

The Cunning Little Vixen pounces on Wellington!

Following the success of NBR New Zealand Opera’s ‘Jenùfa’, NIMBY Opera is proud to announce that Wellingtonians will have the chance to experience another side of Janáèek, with its next production – ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’, opening Friday 27 March 2009 at the Salvation Army Citadel, Wellington.

The show, believed to be a New Zealand premiere, will feature some of New Zealand’s top up-and-coming operatic talent, including graduates of the NBR New Zealand Opera Emerging Artists’ Programme: Kate Lineham as the Vixen, Matthew Landreth as the Forester, Barbara Paterson as the Fox, Daniel O’Connor as the Parson, Barbara Graham and members of the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.

About the Show

‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ is a sexy, comic, and sometimes revolutionary romp through the Czech countryside where Janáèek spent his life.  The story follows the adventures of a troublesome fox, kidnapped as a cub and taken to the world of the humans where she grows up, eventually escaping to cause havoc in the life of the local Forester.  This is an accessible, entertaining work with a comic, bawdy edge, and a gorgeous Romantic pastoral evocation of the joys of nature.

This production will feature a new, specially-commissioned score for small orchestral ensemble by Justus Rozemond, hand-drawn animated backdrops from professional cartoonist Tsai Lim, and directed by well-known theatre director Jacqueline Coats (Revenge of the Amazons, Cosi fan tutte, The Taming of the Shrew).  

2010 tour
Maidment Theatre, Auckland, Wednesday 27 Jan
The Centre, Kerikeri, Friday 29 Jan 
Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton, Monday 1 Feb 
Baycourt Exhibition Space, Tauranga, Wednesday 3 Feb.
All performances at 7.30pm.

About NIMBY Opera

NIMBY Opera is an opera company dedicated to producing new, innovative and accessible opera works for the Wellington public and providing performance and work opportunities for young up-and-coming opera talent – not only singers, but directors, musicians, technical crew and administrators.

NIMBY Opera’s debut production in the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2007 of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ was hailed as a success by critics: "Flawless flow, scintillating singing, hearty humour, plaintive pathos, cool costumes, simple (but effective) staging, masterful musicianship – this production has it all." (Pepe Becker, Theatreview).  The show exceeded box office and audience targets and garnered much support from the local Wellington opera community.

In 2008, NIMBY Opera produced the ambitious and challenging NZ premiere of Lyell Cresswell’s ‘Good Angel, Bad Angel’, a contemporary chamber opera for three singers.  One reviewer commented, "In its combination of adventurousness and consistent quality of presentation, the enterprising, locally-based NIMBY Opera have nimbly upstaged the more lavishly funded opera offerings of the International Arts Festival." (Jackson Coe, Salient).

‘Good Angel, Bad Angel’ toured to Palmerston North and Auckland as part of the Kiwi Opera Festival with a cast and crew of 10 people, performing in Newmarket at The Opera Factory to a sold-out house: "Vocally this production was unswervingly professional.  Wellington’s NIMBY Opera has come up with a workable alternative to big-budget opera in the grand style." (William Dart, New Zealand Herald)

Vixen Sharp-ears:  Kate Lineham
Forester:  Matthew Landreth
Fox Goldenstripe:  Barbara Paterson
Schoolteacher, Rooster:  Edmund Hintz
Badger, Parson:  Daniel O'Connor
Poacher, Innkeeper:  Stuart Coats
Frog, Trilling Hen:  Barbara Graham
Dog, Woodpecker:  Felicity Smith
Forester's Wife, Owl:  Megan Corby
Pepik, Innkeeper's Wife:  Frances Moore
Chicken, Fox Kit:  Rachel Day
Dragonfly:  Natalie Hona

Violin:  Claire Macfarlane
Cello:  Margaret Guldborg
Clarinet:  Tui Clark
Horn:  Dillon Mayhew
Piano:  Catherine Norton

Production Manager:  Natalie Williams
Lighting Design and Operation:  Robbie Ellis
Dressers:  Katherine Beijeman, Felicity Bunny

Foxy music from deep in the Czech forest proves stirring

Review by William Dart 30th Jan 2010

Two years ago, Auckland had a tasty sampling of Wellington’s alt. opera scene when the capital’s NIMBY Opera brought us its production of Good Angel, Bad Angel by New Zealand composer Lyell Cresswell. NIMBY have returned north with Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, touring an opera they describe as "a sexy, comic and sometimes revolutionary romp through the Czech countryside, with the irrepressible Vixen Sharp-ears" to Auckland, Kerikeri, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Free of the gloom and despair that permeate so much of the composer’s operatic vision, this wry, touching allegory, which parallels the lives of man and beast in the Bohemian woodlands, was inspired by a comic strip that appeared in Janacek’s local newspaper, telling the story of a vixen, raised by humans and escaping to raise a family in the forest. [more]
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Clever production

Review by Vicki Thorpe 29th Mar 2009

The Salvation Army Citadel may not be the first place one thinks of as a space for opera in Wellington but with characteristic NIMBY innovation this rather fine building became a little piece of Czechoslovakia for the evening.

NIMBY once more presents a production that is clever, sophisticated, skilful and fresh. One had only to look at the beaming faces of the audience members as they left the first performance of The Cunning Little Vixen to see that how much they had enjoyed this engaging production.

The opera was inspired by a cartoon character in Janacek’s local newspaper and he wrote both libretto and music. The opera reflects his love of the natural world, particularly the birds and animals in the forests of his native Czechoslovakia, and he asked that the final, poignant scene be performed at his funeral.

The story concerns the life and death of Vixen Sharp-Ears, a sassy, sexy (and very stroppy) female who lives in and for the moment. Captured by a forester as a young cub, she soon outwits her human captors and escapes into the forest to live life on her own terms. However the forester, obsessed by her freedom and defiance, sets out to capture her again.

Janacek experimented with dramatic forms in this opera, including dance and mime, and the performers are required to be multi-talented and to take on multiple roles. Jacqueline Coats’ direction enables this cast to rise to the challenge with imaginative and dramatic use of the space.

In one scene a flock of gossipy birds perches in the gallery among the audience, while in another, a group of dopey hens and their self important rooster (played hilariously by Edmund Hintz) scratch and peck their way along the aisles to the stage. The chorus singing is demanding however and the role changes quite complex but Coats’ has clearly given much attention to detail and the members of the chorus seemed to relish the multiple roles.

The movement of animals, birds and humans are finely observed. Rachel More’s costuming is very clever and sometimes very funny. Sacha Copeland’s eloquent choreography underpins and comments on the action, from the exuberant entrance of the vixen’s young cubs to a wedding folk dance, to the more contemplative, balletic Dragon-fly, danced by Natalie Hona. The scene changes are managed very beautifully through Tsai Lim’s animated backdrop.

(I do have one small gripe though – it seems odd that Janacek’s name was not to be found on the programme.)

The singing is excellent. Matthew Landreth is simply superb as the Forester. His rich baritone voice is admirably suited to the role. Kate Lineham is well cast, looking and sounding very much the impudent little vixen. She sings Janacek’s demandingly angular and swooping phrases with precision, power and flexibility (all while cavorting about the stage in very foxy manner).

Vixen’s duet with the enamoured Fox Goldenstripe (impeccably sung by Barbara Paterson) is the highlight of the show for me. Edmund Hintz, Daniel O’Connor, Stuart Coats and Barbara Graham dash back and forth between their human and animal roles with panache.

Arranging a full orchestral score for small ensemble is no small task and musical director Justus Rozemond had his work cut out for him. He has scored the opera for violin, cello, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), French horn and piano. This arrangement works really well and is quite an achievement. The quintet accompanies and balances the small cast very nicely although it is a demanding and very transparent scoring for the players.

Pianist Catherine Norton deserves a mention, not only for her fine playing, but for (literally) not missing a beat when a member of the cast nearly fell into her lap during a fight scene!

As a member of the audience was heard to say on the way out, "It just goes to show that you don’t need a big budget to do a good chamber opera but you sure need to be clever about it."

With The Cunning Little Vixen NIMBY has definitely come up with the goods. Highly recommended.


Robbie Ellis March 29th, 2009

Thanks very much for the review. One clarification - clarinettist Tui Clark doubles on three instruments: Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet and bass clarinet. She manages her changes with aplomb!

Come to think of it, if there are three instruments, should the correct verb be "to treble", instead of "to double"?

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