Tobias Picker's operatic adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's tale Fantastic Mr. Fox begins its 2012 run at London's Opera Holland Park on July 17, marking the third consecutive summer that the opera has been featured at the festival. Holland Park presents eight performances from July 17 through August 4 on the beautiful Yucca Lawn in Stephen Barlow's production designed specifically to utilize the natural scenery as backdrop and conducted by Matthew Waldren. Fantastic Mr. Fox is performed at Holland Park in its recent chamber orchestration for seven players.
An ideal introduction for children to opera using a source material that many of them know and love, Fantastic Mr. Fox can no less be savored by opera lovers of every ilk. Picker’s revered lyric gift and natural sense of dramatic arc animates the story of the wily Mr. Fox and his bid to outwit his farmer neighbors.
The Roald Dahl Foundation commissioned Tobias Picker to adapt the story in 1998, and the opera premiered at the Los Angeles Opera in December of that same year marking the first world premiere of an American opera in Los Angeles. Heidi Waleson remarked in The Wall Street Journal following the premiere:
Together [Picker and librettist Donald Sturrock] captured Dahl's spirit in a musical language that challenged, entertained and never pandered, skillfully balancing dark and light. Two entirely new creatures gave Mr. Picker the chance for some particularly inspired writing: Miss Hedgehog (soprano Sari Gruber), who laments her spinsterhood in a touchingly lyrical aria, and Agnes the Digger (Jill Grove), a butch earthmover with a dramatic mezzo range who is even scarier and more powerful than the nasty farmers with their guns. The opera was a captivating and witty entertainment. Oboe themes representing the natural world contrasted with the percussive characterization of the people and the machines. Mr. Picker also made colorful orchestral use of mallet instruments and a piano. The fox family and the quintet of bad guys had catchy ensembles, there were two haunting chorales for a children's chorus of trees, and the fox pair celebrated their victory at the end with, of course, a fox trot.
In its third season at Holland Park, the opera has become a permanent staple in the opera festival's summer programming. Learn more on the production by visiting www.operahollandpark.com.
Further information on the life and work of Tobias Picker is located at www.schott-music.com.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998, arr. 2010)
opera in three acts
libretto (En) by Donald Sturrock, based on the story by Roald Dahl
for 2 sopranos, 3 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, 2 baritones, bass baritone, bass, four children and chorus
chamber orchestration featured at Opera Holland Park: 0.0.1(bcl).1-0.0.0.0-perc-pno-vn.va.vc
original orchestration: 2(1.alfl 2.pic).2(2.ca).2(2.bcl).2(2.cbsn) -188.8.131.52-timp.2perc-hp.pno-str
also available in reduced orchestration: 1(pic.alto).1(ca).1(bscl).1(cbsn)-2hn.tp.tba-1perc.timp-hp.pno-vn.va.vc.db