As Fantastic Mr Fox opens at OPERA San Antonio, we caught up with Emily Carew Woodard to find out how she re-imagined the story for the stage
From Tuesday 23 September, OPERA San Antonio – an exciting new resident opera company at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas, USA – will play host to the fantastic Mr Fox and family, not to mention those rather unpleasant farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, as they take to the stage in an operatic version of one of Roald Dahl’s best-known children’s stories.
Fantastic Mr Fox was first re-imagined as an opera in 1998 by Tobias Picker and Donald Sturrock, when it debuted at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. This new production sees director Erica Olden and designer Emily Carew Woodard collaborate to bring this much-loved story to life as part of OPERA San Antonio’s inaugural season.
Ahead of the show’s opening, we asked designer Emily how she went about re-imagining these well-known characters for the operatic stage…
“Having spent most of my childhood and adolescence growing up on or around farms means I had already had the pleasure of meeting several real-life Boggis, Bunce, Beans, Badgers and Foxes. So, being asked to recreate the visuals for Fantastic Mr. Fox was not only a subject in my vernacular but also a childhood dream come true.
I approached recreating this staged version as if the book had been written yesterday. Firstly I refreshed myself by re-reading the original story and then the Libretto adaption for the opera, noting down all the obvious character idiosyncrasies and major scene details.
Using these notes as my starting point I avoided (as much as is realistically possible) looking at any previous artists' work for this story, as I didn’t want my creations to be subconsciously influenced by anyone else’s work. Staying true to my own design was one of my main objectives - usually my compositions are quite colourful and detailed and I take huge enjoyment in the grotesque and the inevitable humour that comes with it. Creating Mr Fox’s costume was a sheer joy and I was thrilled at how all the other costumes fell into place once I had completed his last whisker.
I have seen a few snippets as to how my designs are being visualised by the talented costume- and set-makers, and already I am astonished at how far they have been kept true to my designs. I can’t wait to see them all in full, and the final production up and alive.”
OPERA San Antonio’s Fantastic Mr Fox plays at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday 23 – Sunday 29 September. Visit the official website for more details.