The Cunning Little Vixen


“Magical” is a word much overused by the people who write the blurbs for operas – but in the case of HGO’s latest production at newly refurbished Jackson’s Lane, it's merited.

Janáček's opera can be seen an early attempt to describe the conflicting interconnections between animals, people, and the cycle of nature. Apparently the Czech composer and folklorist was much influenced by a popular cartoon series, and there's a distinct sense of the surreal running through rising star director Eleanor Burke’s, enchanting production.Ham & High: The cast of The Cunning Little VixenThe cast of The Cunning Little Vixen (Image: Laurent Compagnon)

As a kit, Sharp-Ears is captured by the Forester (the engaging and talented Edward Kim) and kept as a family pet. We watch her grow up and eventually escape back to the forest where she meets the smoothly-charming Gold-Stripe (played with style and energy by Milette Gillow).

Nature takes its course and they have their first litter. Then another ... and another, all played with great enthusiasm by local children. The scene in which Sharp-Ears raids the hen house was hilarious.

A capacity audience at the Highgate arts centre was in stitches as we were introduced to Alexandria’s Wreggelsworth’s posturing Rooster and the wonderful clucking and pecking Hen’s Chorus.Ham & High: The Cunning Little Vixen castThe Cunning Little Vixen cast (Image: Laurent Compagnon)

Caroline Taylor as Sharp-Ears is sensational, playing her role as a proto feminist she delivers the complete performance, using mime, dance and her wonderfully rich voice.

Charlotte Henry’s set (she also designed the costumes) adds to the fun. Constructed like a horizonal Advent calendar, trap doors opened at random with all manner of creatures and props popping out.

A hugely enjoyable evening from the continually inventive amateur/professional opera company founded 30 years ago in Hampstead Garden Suburb, it was fully staged with orchestra, conducted by the Czech/British Lada Valešová, and sung in Czech with English surtitles.

The production is part of the London Czech Centre’s 26th ‘Made in Prague’ Festival and not only gives a platform to leading opera singers of tomorrow, but would make a brilliant introduction to opera for young people.

The Cunning Little Vixen runs at Jacksons Lane until November 13.