Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Produced by Scottish Opera, Fox-Tot! is a new opera composed for a target audience of 12 to 24 month olds. Composer Liam Paterson is joined by director Roxana Haines and designers Giuseppe Belli and Emma Belli in presenting this work after the success of their previous collaboration BambinO (2017). The work is a children's opera for very young children. The plot is the story of a young fox learning to be a fox. Mezzo-Soprano, Katie Grosset does an excellent job of engaging with her young audience as mother fox and the production clearly focuses on multi-sensory engagement. There are bubbles, leaves, scarves and beautifully conceived puppets. Counter tenor, Daniel Keating-Roberts conveys a convincing young fox cub, whose antics were a hit with the audience. The acting is exaggerated for effect to help connect with their target audience and there is a heavy immersive element with singers entering the audience to share experiences and props with more shy attendees. The set was minimal but did not stint on sensory enrichment through props and clever scene change devises, (such as a day/night transition aided by a curtain).
The singers are to be congratulated on their seamless presentation amidst crying or inquisitive interruptions. The instrumentalists appeared semi-staged as well and in costume. The cellist, Laura Sergeant, also played a small organ. Percussionist, Michael D Clark who played vibraphone, shekere, and waterphone and other incidental instruments. Collectively the music did not want for colour or expression. There were very short aria-like moments but the music was more of a wave of sound than strong melodic sections, with perhaps the exception of the frog exploration. In the finale of the opera the two foxes dance together with music that seems reminiscent of a renaissance fair dance. Once the music ends all the children are invited to further explore the set (this was welcome throughout the production). This addition brings a further level of engagement for little ones and the moon prop in particular garnered a great deal of interest.
In all the opera presents beautifully for their target audience and parents were left entertained as well. I would love to see an approach for 24 months - 4 years where melody has a stronger role. The production non-the-less was brilliantly executed and I hope Scottish Opera continues with projects like these.