OPERA San Antonio Presents Taking Fantastic Mr. Fox to the Stage
Long before film director Wes Anderson decided to adapt Fantastic Mr. Fox for the big screen, OPERA San Antonio's Artistic Director, Tobias Picker, had a hit of his own with his operatic version of the much-loved Roald Dahl story. So much so that his opera, Fantastic Mr. Fox, has been performed in several highly varied productions since its 1998 premiere, including three seasons as part of a popular open-air festival in one of London's celebrated parks.
What's especially exciting about OPERA SA's brand-newFantastic Mr. Fox production is the creativity of the visual artist Emily Carew Woodard. Woodard has been praised in London for her memorable and original illustrations. Nothing unleashes her imagination more vividly than the chance to capture the world of animals.
"It's been so wonderful to be able to draw on my passion for animals and the humor they exhibit," Woodard said from her studio in London. "Tobias wanted me to stay true to my original work, which is quite inspired by the golden era of Victorian illustration."
The visual dimension of OPERA San Antonio's production is far more than a standard set design used to evoke atmosphere. Thanks to Woodard's quirky humor, elegance and bold sense of detail, the sets for
Fantastic Mr. Fox themselves seem animated.
"The sets really look just like my paintings," Woodard said. "As for the costumes, those proved especially tricky to sort out. I drew from some firsthand experiences making costumes for the theater."
Teaming up with Woodard is stage director Emily Olden, co-founder of the enterprising Microscopic Opera Company in Pittsburgh, where she directed an acclaimed take on the chamber version of Fantastic Mr. Fox.
"At Microscopic, my driving idea was to bring out the fun in the show. It came out of a very theatrical approach, since we were interested in exploring how to use unconventional and intimate spaces," said Olden.
"The production at OPERA San Antonio," Olden explains, "will be centered on the visual elements, which has called for a notably different and unusual creative process: the singers are playing animals as these strange hybrids, like Mr. Fox who dresses well and throws sophisticated dinner parties."
"The story is so well told, and it's enhanced by the beautiful illustrations and scenic work of Emily. This is all on a small, intimate scale, with seven musicians in the orchestra, and that intimacy makes it very accessible for the kids," said Olden.