One of the design inspirations for CCM's new production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN.

Discussing the Cycles of Life Presented in CCM’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ with Director Vince DeGeorge

Leoš Janáček’s fantastical opera The Cunning Little Vixen comes to the CCM stage April 8 – 10 as part of this year’s Mainstage Series. To share what inspired his vision for the anthropomorphic production, Stage Director and Choreographer Vince DeGeorge reflected on the relationship between humans and nature with CCM Public Information Graduate Assistant Charlotte Kies.

A mask from CCM's 2016 production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN. Photography by Mark Lyons.

A mask from CCM’s 2016 production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN. Photography by Mark Lyons.

Could you tell me about your inspiration for the design of the masks in this production?

I’ve had this little vixen figurine for about 10 years. It was a gift from my wife, and it has become a touchstone for this project. You’ll see the geometric nature of the fox sculpture reflected in the masks by third-year graduate student and Costume Designer Oran Wongpandid. They’re very cool looking. There’s a sort of formalism about this little creature that I love, but there’s also a playfulness that embodies the spirit of this production.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s 'The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

How do they use these masks?

They carry the masks and sometimes wear them. They don’t sing with the masks on. One of the things that is most prevalent in this opera is the relationship between humans and animals. The actors come on stage as humans and they transform into animals in front of the audience. It’s a simple transformation through movement and mask work.

Is this something traditionally done, or is this a new idea of your own?

That’s something that I bring to it. Mark Halpin, the designer of the set, and I have never done a show together but we’ve worked a lot together. He sort of understands my aesthetic and he brought his own point of view to it as well. He has come up with this design that I think really embodies this very human aspect of this story. We become animals to tell a very human story.

'The Cunning Little Vixen'

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

What is that human story?

I think the human story is that every day, life is happening all around us. Often times we are too distracted, or aggressive, or controlling to notice. If you actually take the time to be aware, you will experience everything that’s going on around you. You may not experience all of it, but you will be more receptive to experiences. That’s the journey of the Forester, from very aggressive and controlling, to very open and receptive.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s 'The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

The Vixen has a different journey. She starts very innocent, open and receptive. Then events occur that change her to become more aggressive and more controlling. She eventually finds her way back into a much more open and receptive place with her love, the Fox.

What’s so beautiful about this opera is that it runs in cycles, in circles. Someone starts a scene and ends up in almost the same place, but something has changed within them. There is a giant cycle that’s going on within the entire opera and the Vixen has a cycle that’s running through her and the Forester. We don’t see the top of the Forester’s cycle but we see him changing back to this more open and receptive person. The music just cycles and cycles in a wonderful repetition and revision that Janáček is an expert at creating.

That sort of fits in with what I’ve read.

The opera is full of life cycles! But within them are tiny little journeys that are going on within ALL of the characters.

That is one aspect that makes this opera so amazing, and another reason why Mark and I decided to set it in a more distilled, abstract way, as opposed to setting it in the 1920s or in Czechoslovakia. To nail it down to a certain time period could diminish the universality of the performance. It doesn’t have a time period, but I think the story in itself is timeless. I’m not saying this is the way to approach this opera, this is the way we approached it.

'The Cunning Little Vixen'

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

Is this opera often translated into English?

Well, I’m not an expert at that. What I can say is that when I was an undergrad here, David Adams was my voice teacher. Then he did the translation of my first opera here!

That’s a nice little cycle!

Yes, it is! And even though he is a professor emeritus here, David has been at a lot of rehearsals. He has been really involved. It’s been fantastic to work with him in a very different way and still learn from him.

Was it his choice to put this in English?

Actually, David wrote this for Professor Kenneth Shaw’s production here but then retired after spending a lifetime here. This is one of our ways to thank and honor him and the work that he’s done for CCM.

Are English-sung operas a theme this year?

Well, that’s something that we as a department really made an effort to do this year. Both Mainstage Operas were in English, which is more challenging to sing than other languages. The students need to learn how to sing in English and make it understandable and not lose their vocal quality.

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Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen runs April 8 – 10 in UC’s Corbett Auditorium. Mark Gibson conducts with stage direction and choreography by Vince DeGeorge. This production will be sung in English, with a new translation by CCM Professor Emeritus David Adams. You can learn more about the production here.

CCM News Faculty Fanfare
A mask from CCM's 2016 production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN. Photography by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s Mainstage Series Presents ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ April 8 – 10, 2016

CCM brings you Leoš Janácek’s anthropomorphic opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, from April 8 – 10 as part of this year’s Mainstage Series. Instead of the typical protagonists of kings, queens and courtly staff, the stars of Janácek’s opera are foxes, dragonflies and badgers, and a host of woodland creatures, as well as the humans who try to tame them. Mark Gibson conducts with stage direction and choreography by Vince DeGeorge. This production will be sung in English, with a new translation by CCM Professor Emeritus David Adams.

The story begins with a Forester who, asleep at the base of a tree after a long night of drinking, awakens to the sight of a playful vixen cub. Delighted with his newfound furry friend, the Forester stumbles home to his farm to show his family. Discontent with her life in captivity, the cunning Vixen plots her escape, ruffles some feathers among the farm animals, and flees into the night. The Forester is then devastated and left alone to pine after his lost treasure.

Meanwhile, the Forester’s drinking buddies have troubles of their own. The Schoolmaster lusts after a young woman engaged to another man, and the Priest struggles to reconcile a misstep in his past with his present life of piety. Each man finds himself tormented by his own obsession, and struggles to accept the natural progression of life and death when it is out of his control.

One of the design inspriations for CCM's new production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN.

One of the design inspriations for CCM’s new production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN.

Inspired by a serial comic strip printed in the local paper, Leoš Janácek uses music and dance to breathe life into the characters he saw on the page. DeGeorge said a muse in the form of a little wooden vixen, gifted from his wife 10 years ago, inspired his vision for CCM’s production of the opera.

The geometric nature of the figurine, which is featured on the program cover, is reflected in the masks worn and carried by the characters as they transform throughout the opera.

“One of the things that is most prevalent in this opera is the relationship between humans and animals. The actors come on stage as humans and they transform into animals in front of the audience,” DeGeorge said. “There’s a sort of formalism about this little creature that I love but there’s also a playfulness that embodies the spirit of this production.”

It’s that very spirit, the transformative essence and flow of cycles within the opera, that Janácek masterfully elicits in your ears. Janácek will mesmerize you with his lush harmonies and sweeping melodies, Hollywood strings, flittering elfin-like woodwinds solos, and powerful romantic brass, in this fantastical tale of the intimate relationship between man and nature.

Join us in CCM’s Corbett Auditorium, this April 8-10, to explore the human condition within the enchanted world of music and dance.

Leoš Janácek’s
THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN
An Opera in Three Acts
Critical revised version by Jiri Zahrádka
Used by arrangement with European American Music Distributors Company, U.S. and Canadian agent for Universal Edition Vienna, publisher and copyright owner.

The Creative Team

  • Mark Gibson, conductor
  • Vince DeGeorge, stage director and choreographer
  • Marie-France Lefebvre, musical preparation
  • Mark Halpin, scenic designer
  • Jeremy Dominik, lighting designer*
  • Oran Wongpandid, costume designer*
  • Kelly Yurko, wig & make-up designer
  • Kristen Budke, properties designer*
  • Susan Moser, choreographer
  • Michael Medina, stage manager*
  • John Murton, assistant conductor (Sunday matinee)*
  • Maria Fuller, rehearsal pianist*
  • Levi Hammer, rehearsal pianist*
  • Michael Medina, rehearsal pianist*

* CCM student

Performance Times

  • 8 p.m. Friday, April 8
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 9
  • 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10

Location
Corbett Auditorium, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets

Tickets to The Cunning Little Vixen are $31-35 for adults, $20-24 for non-UC students and $18-22 for UC students with a valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/cunning-little-vixen.

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the new U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.

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CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

Opera Department Sponsor: Mr. & Mrs. Edward S. Rosenthal

Opera Production Sponsor: Genevieve Smith

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