Opera version of Roald Dahl children’s book opens Friday in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com
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Opera version of Roald Dahl children’s book opens Friday in Steamboat Springs

Julia Ben-Asher/For Steamboat Today
The cast practices for "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which will be performed by the Emerald City Opera at the Larson Barn this weekend.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

Fantastic Mr. Fox, an opera presented by Emerald City Opera

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 12, 5 p.m. Aug. 13

Where: Larson Barn, 32380 Wild Goose Lane on Colorado Highway 131

Cost: Aug. 12: $15 for kids, $30 for adults; Aug. 13: $10 for kids, $30 for adults

Local actors to know

Cubs:

Dagny Dash (Bennie)

Tyger Juschka (Lennie)

Giulia Costantini (Jennie)

Kaela Pedersen (Pennie)

Trees:

Thea Dardanis

Mimi Dash

Soleil Nelson

Gabby Birchby

— To see a family of foxes near a barn in the mountains of Northwest Colorado wouldn’t normally make headlines, but ordinarily, these foxes wouldn’t be singing opera to an audience or plotting to overthrow the instigators of an systemically unjust society, either. 

Friday in the Larson Barn on Highway 131 south of Steamboat Springs, Emerald City Opera presents the most fantastic foxes Routt County residents may ever host — plus a barnful of other memorable characters — in a three-act rendition of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” 

While many of Dahl’s books — “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “The Witches” and “Matilda,” to name a few — have been adapted as movies and musicals, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the first to be turned into an opera.

“It’s a great opera for people who aren’t really opera fans or have never been to an opera before,” said director Erica Olden, current executive director for Pittsburgh’s Microscopic Opera. This will be Olden’s third time directing “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

The show stars singers from Emerald City Opera’s Artist Institute, which brings young adults from across the country to Northwest Colorado for several weeks packed with opera performances and master classes. They are backed by an orchestra conducted by Opera Theatre Summer Fest music director Robert Frankenberry.

Fox cubs, or local children, also will scamper around in the spotlight; others play a chorus of trees.

“I think the audience will like the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, because they’re funny,” said 8-year-old fox cub Dagny Dash.

“There are a lot of grown-up elements in this opera, even though it’s for children and adults,” composer Tobias Picker said in a news release. “The orchestra and the singers tell a story that has more than one meaning at any given time.”

Picker is expected to attend the Larson Barn performance. Scott Ballantine, who plays Mr. Fox, participated in an Artist Institute masterclass with Picker last summer and looks forward to his feedback this time around. “Getting the chance now to do a full role is really exciting,” he said. “(Picker’s) music is almost addicting to work on.”

The audience will sit on the bottom level of the barn — “underground, where the foxes live,” said Olden — while the villainous farmers are upstairs, or above-ground. But that stage set-up will change throughout the course of the story. “You get to actually see those two different worlds happening,” Ballantine said.

While many of the opera’s lyrics are drawn straight from Dahl’s book, the audience can also expect to meet new characters, namely a rat and two pieces of farm equipment. Costumes are distinct — keep your eyes out for a badger wearing a leather jacket — and make-up will be done in particular detail for the unusually small, close audience capped at 75.

“You might think (the opera) is closer to the movie than the book,” noted Olden. “It feels like the movie.”

Tickets are available at emeraldcityopera.com. Barn doors open at 6:30 p.m. Friday for a 7 p.m. show and at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for the 5 p.m. matinee. Also, be sure to celebrate Roald Dahl Day on Sept. 13.


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