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Fangs, Feathers and Fearsome Felines

31 October 2019

What does Halloween mean to you? Carving pumpkins, collecting candy or turning yourself into a zombie of some sorts? Black cats, bats and wolves have long been associated with Halloween and while you won’t find any of those in our production of The Cunning Little Vixen, you will find a whole host of creatures (some with a dark side).

Dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain Halloween was originally the marking of the beginning of the cold, dark winter that often meant death, the end of summer and harvest. The seasons are joyously depicted in Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen blooming flowers are replaced by autumnal leaves which turn into blankets of snow emphasising the never ending cycle of life. 

While the forest is no stranger to twisted fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, The Little Red Riding Hood and other gruesome stories, WNO’s feisty canine is not afraid to get her claws out. She makes any big-bad wolf look tame, tearing apart chickens with feathers flying everywhere, strangling a young hare and evicting a badger out of his burrow in a quite un-ladylike way.

Another tradition of Halloween, historically, was for young women to throw apple-peel over their shoulders, hoping that the peel would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials. Our Vixen, however, didn’t have this need, boldly and strongly declaring her feelings for the charming Fox by jumping straight into the burrow with him. If you love a party the Vixen and Fox’s wedding is not to be missed much like when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and celebrate All-Hallows Eve.

Although it’s not just this opera that Janáček evokes the eerie and the animalistic, in his From the House of the Dead, a wounded eagle is kept as a pet, nurtured back to health and eventually released into the wild. Another opera with spooky ties is, Die Fledermaus which not only translates to The Bat but centres round a costume party in full swing. Speaking of which if you are at a loss as to what to wear for Halloween this year, come and see The Cunning Little Vixen to grab some forest-y inspiration from our hugely creative, quirky costumes; the cutest caterpillar, a grumpy, hairy badger or the shimmering, twinkling dragonfly – if you’re feeling wild.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to do with the family this Halloween The Cunning Little Vixen is the show for you, although, the only fireworks will be the ones in Janáček’s rousing score. In fact if you are in or around Llandudno there is a performance on the 31 October – don’t forget your cat ears.

To quote a popular TV series, ‘Winter is coming.’ You’ve been warned.