SMTD Past Performances


Performance Programs > 2022-23 Season >  Voice & Opera

The Cunning Little Vixen

Composed by Leoš Janáček

Reduced version arranged by Jonathan Dove

Libretto adapted by the composer from a 1920 serialized novella, Liška Bystrouška, by Rudolf Těsnohlídek

Department of Voice and the University Symphony Orchestra
November 3 – November 6, 2022 • The Power Center for the Performing Arts

Incorporating elements of Moravian folk music and exploring man’s relationship with nature, Leoš Janáček’s opera about a female fox and a hunter is a bittersweet-yet-comic tale for all ages.

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Creative Team

Tara Faircloth

Music Director / Conductor
Kirk Severtson

Assistant Conductor^
Yeo Ryeong Ahn

Scenic Designer
Cameron Anderson

Costume Designer
Sarah M. Oliver

Lighting Designer
Rob Murphy

Czech Coaching
Timothy Cheek

Amy Chavasse

Karin Waidley

Chorus Master
Benjamin Gaughran

Rehearsal Pianists / Coaches
Julian Grabarek Kimia Rafieian

Fight Directors
Erik Dagoberg‡,
Atticus Olivet

Production Stage Manager
Kayleigh Laymon

^Yeo Ryeong Ahn conducted the performance on Sunday,  November 6.



Revírník (Forester)
Noah B. Rogers

Bystrouška (Vixen)
Juliet Schlefer

Lisák (Fox)
Danielle Casós 

Rechtor (Schoolmaster) / Komar (Mosquito)
Trevor Scott

Lapák (Dog) / Datel (Woodpecker)
Abigail Lysinger


Revírník (Forester)
Robert Wesley Mason

Bystrouška (Vixen)
Colleen Cole Beucher

Lisák (Fox)
Antona Yost

Rechtor (Schoolmaster) / Komar (Mosquito)
Ian Pathak

Lapák (Dog) / Datel (Woodpecker)
Madeleine Buckley

All Performances

Harašta, a poacher
Tyrique McNeal

Farár (Parson) / Jezevec (Badger)
Cody Carlson

Kohout, a rooster / Jay
Annika De Jonge

Chocholka, a hen
Cinderella Ksebati

Forester’s wife / Owl
Aria Minasian

Pepík, the forester’s son
Darla Lowe

Frantík, Pepík’s friend
Megan Warburton

Pásek (Innkeeper) / Hedgehog
Spencer VanDellen

Pani Paskova, the innkeeper’s wife
Catherine Gispert

Anne-Marie Atanga

Pelagia Pamel

Victoria Rose Pinto

Little Vixen
Rebecca Clark

Dream Vixen
Ladina Schaller

Fox Cubs
Anne-Marie Atanga, Rebecca Clark,
Pelagia Pamel, Victoria Rose Pinto

Anne-Marie Atanga, Catherine Gispert, Darla Lowe, Megan Warburton

Hallie Ackerman, Olivia Donahue, Justin Ingui, Veronica Nicole Koz, Javier F. Torres Delgado, Sumedha Vadlapudi, Jaxon Williams

Dragonflies (Dancers)
Audrey Deguia, Melisa Orduna,
Ladina Schaller, Kaitlyn Wilson


Violin I
Beau Henson**
Matthew Adams
Yuchen Cao
Zoe Fong
Alden Rohwer
May Tang

Violin II
Ellen Hayashi*
Zoe Dweck
Joshua Millet
Jolie Rebelo
Braden Thompson
Alex Vershinin

Hannah Langenbach* Luvyana Marquez
Diego Mieres

Emma Cary*
Benjamin Deighton
Emma Osterrieder
John Rose

Double Bass
Grant Phillips*
Connor Briskin

Isabella Carucci

Daniel Severtson

Noah Pujol

Eddie Martinez

Gabriella Rock

Adam Julian
Zachariah Reed

Arabella Olson

John Tatara
Spencer Perilloux

Karlee Lanum

Keyboard (alternating performances)
Julian Grabarek
Kimia Rafieian


Assistants to the Creative Team

Assistant Director Andrew Smith‡ | Assistant Lighting Designer William Webster‡

Co-Dramaturg Leo Kupferberg‡ | 1st ASM Elaina Veasey‡ 

2nd ASMs Chuck Gibson‡, Katie Kutzko‡, Caleb Quezon‡

Production Crew

Sound Engineer Roger Arnett

Hair and Makeup Supervisor Sam Whetstone

Assistant Master Electrician Brandon Malin

Shop Crews

Theatrical Lighting Abi Farnsworth, Jordan Pinet, Brandon Malin, Christian Mulville, Sydney Geysbeek, Elianna Kruskal, Megan Mondek, Alex Li, William Webster

Painting  Ellie Vice & Theatre 250/252/261 students

Props  Beatrix Dergis, Aquila Ewald, Dallas Fadul, Eli Hubbel, Rachael Hymowitz, Katie Kim, Lucy Knas, Alex Li, Audrey Tieman, Laurence Vance,  and Theatre 250/252 students

Scenery (Walgreen Scene Shop)  Niamh Sullivan, Sophia Severance, Cass Scott, Andy Blatt, Miles Hionis, Juliet Bornholdt, and Theatre 250/ 252 students

Costumes  Esmay Pricejones, Ellie VanEngen, Kaytlin Sanchez, and Theatre 250/252/262 Students

Production Office  Holly Adam, Marissa Honig, Trisha Stichler

Running Crew

Light Board Operator Anna Zhou

Supertitles Operator Maya Liu

Followspot Operator Austin Nedrow

Followspot Operator Haoyi Wen

Deck/Props Crew Sofia Deler, Tiara Partsch

Deck/Scenery Crew Brendan Dallaire, Jamie Mann, Diego Rodriguez

Wardrobe Crew Mila McCoy+, Kaitlyn Yi, Alex Humphreys, Lucy Knas

Wig/Makeup Crew Dallas Fadul+, Amy Helms

+Crew Head

Design & Production Faculty Advisors

Head of Design & Production  Christianne Myers

Stage Management  Nancy Uffner

Scenic Design  Jungah Han, Kevin Judge

Costume Design  Christianne Myers, Sarah M. Oliver, Christopher Vergara

Lighting Design  Jess Fialko, Shelby Loera, Rob Murphy

Sound Design  Henry Reynolds

Department of Voice

Scott Piper

Opera Faculty
Kathleen Belcher, Timothy Cheek, Abbigail Coté, Tara Faircloth (Guest Director), Kirk Severtson, Matthew Thompson, Mo Zhou

Voice Faculty
Freda Herseth, Stephen Lusmann, Caitlin Lynch, Amanda Majeski, Rose Mannino, Stanford Olsen, Scott Piper, George Shirley, Louise Toppin, Daniel Washington, Stephen West

Associated Faculty
Antonio Cuyler, Caroline Helton

Distinguished Visiting Artist
Thomas Hampson

Professors Emeriti
Willis Patterson, Carmen Pelton, George Shirley

University Productions Administrative Staff

Executive Director
Jeffrey Kuras

Administrative Specialist
Christine Eccleston

Administrative Assistant
Nathan Carrillo

Information Systems Manager
Henry Reynolds

Facilities Manager
Shannon Rice

Performance Halls
House Manager
Kelley Krahn

Lead Backstage Operations Manager
Dane Racicot

Senior Backstage Operations Manager
David Pickell

Backstage Operations Managers
Tiff Crutchfield, Alex Gay, Yvette Kashmer

University Productions Production Staff

Production Manager
Paul Hunter

Assistant Production Manager
Michelle Williams-Elias

Technical Director (Walgreen)
Richard W. Lindsay Jr.

Theatrical Scenery Manager
Chad Hain

Lead Scenic Carpenter
Devin Miller

Scenic Carpenter
Heather Udowitz

Charge Scenic Artist
Beth Sandmaier

Associate Theatrical Paint Manager
Madison Stinemetz

Theatrical Properties Manager
Patrick A. Drone

Senior Properties Artisan
Dan Erickson

Theatrical Lighting Manager
Heather Hunter

Associate Theatrical Lighting Manager
Baxter Chambers

Sound Designer/Engineer
Henry Reynolds

Costume Shop Manager
Laura Brinker

Assistant Costume Shop Manager
Leslie Ann Smith

Justin Collings, Seth Gilbert, TJ Williamson

Theatrical Stitchers
Rene Plante, Marcia Grace

Crafts Artisan
Elizabeth Gunderson

Costume Stock Manager
Theresa Hartman

Wardrobe Manager
Rossella Human


The performers in this production were students in the Department of Voice and the University Symphony Orchestra. The designers for this production were students, faculty, and/or guests of SMTD. Scenery, costumes, properties, sound, and lighting were realized by the students and staff of University Productions, the producing unit of the SMTD. Thank you for supporting our educational mission.

Original Performance
Premiered at the National Theatre in Brno on November 6, 1924.

The forest and the various locales in a nearby town.


Used by arrangement with European American Music Distributors Company, U.S. and Canadian agent for Universal Edition Vienna, publisher.

Leos Janácek (Composer) 1854–1928. The son of a poor schoolmaster, Janácek studied at the Prague Organ School. In 1875 he was appointed conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Society. He held this position for a few years, then feeling his musical education was still lacking, he went to the Leipzig Conservatory. After that, he spent a year in Vienna furthering his studies. Finally in 1881, he returned to Brno and founded his own organ school, an institution he directed until it became the State Conservatory of Music in 1920. Janácek’s first significant composition was written when he was forty, and his most famous works were produced after his sixtieth birthday.

Though he composed chamber and orchestral works, piano music, a song cycle, ballet music, and a mass, he is known primarily for his operas. Jenufa (1904), his third opera, had its premiere in Brno, but it was not until the 1916 production in Prague that Janácek suddenly became famous. Kát’a Kabanová (1921) is often regarded as a pivotal work, having one foot in the post-romantic school and one in modernism. His next opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, turns to nature for its subject. In Janácek’s last two operas, the composer’s melodic language becomes more terse, rugged, and dissonant, though never atonal. The Makropoulos Case, written in 1926, turns from nature to an urban world of legal complexities and theatrical life. From the House of the Dead is a setting of Dostoyevsky’s prison diaries and the composer’s last work. Janácek caught a chill while taking a walk that rapidly worsened, turning into the pneumonia from which he died at age 72 in Ostrava.

Janácek’s music relies heavily on the speech patterns of the Czechoslovakian language. He studied the melody and rhythm of speech for over thirty years, systematically notating his discoveries. He used his research to devise various motifs – short phrases of a distinct rhythmic and melodic content – that form the basis of expression in his music. Though he uses many folk-like materials in his work, his other compositional traits are more easily recognized. These include the declamatory patterns of his vocal music; a certain dry humor; tight, pared-down harmony; intense rhythmic drive; and spare but skillful orchestration. These characteristics are also identifiable in his “Glagolitic Mass” (1926), his symphonic poem “Taras Bulba” (1928), his two string quartets, and many of his chamber works. Janácek was a musical anomaly – his work is of such originality and inventiveness that he has no musical predecessors or ancestors. While some of his operas, most notably Jenufa and Kát’a Kabanová, have always been performed, today’s audiences are able to enjoy a wider range of this uniquely satisfying and profoundly moving music. 

— NY City Opera


The Cunning Little Vixen is known in Czech as Příhody lišky Bystroušky, which more accurately translates as Adventures of the Vixen Sharp-Ears. Indeed, Janáček’s opera reads as a series of scenes from the Vixen’s life, along with snapshots of humans affected by her. Janáček did, however, fashion these series of vignettes into a coherent whole and significantly altered Rudolf Těsnohlídek’s original serialized novella (with drawings by Stanislav Lolek) into a work with a profound ending. The Cunning Little Vixen vies with Jenůfa as being Janáček’s most frequently performed opera. What is it about this work—often described as quirky, magical, beautiful, touching, moving, and life-affirming—that captures our hearts?

In The Cunning Little Vixen, Janáček’s messages of the transformative power of love, the renewal of nature and of all life, and of coming to terms with disappointments, missed opportunities, and one’s mortality are all universal messages that are a part of being human. Yet, the story is told in an astoundingly unique way.

First, Janáček’s musical style is utterly unique. For years, the composer observed his native Moravian world and tried to capture in musical notation the utterances of people in all kinds of situations—from a woman calling her chickens to the dying words of his beloved daughter Olga. He was seeking to capture in music not only the natural inflection of Czech, but the emotions behind the words at those particular moments, and certainly in the case of his daughter, to express and preserve some of the essence of the person who spoke those words.

Most of the characters in the opera, both animals and humans, speak Moravian dialect from an area in and around Brno around the turn of the twentieth century. Interestingly, however, the Dog speaks more “proper,” standard Czech—perhaps because he has dedicated himself to art? The Schoolmaster, too, speaks more formal Czech, even when talking to himself. The poacher Harašta speaks with the most dialect—more on him later. The Fox speaks with respectful, gentlemanly Czech as he courts the Vixen.

Janáček was also one of the first opera composers to use prose text, rather than verse. This emphasis on natural expression means that much of his opera is in “real time,” rather than in stretched-out “musical time.” Because of this, and the physicality of much of the opera, it takes on a modern, cinematic quality. Certain expressive words, too, make their way into the orchestra as short, repetitive rhythmic fragments that weave in and out like a colorful tapestry or mosaic, typical of Janáček’s style.

Equally as important for the composer was the folk music of his native Moravia, with its modal scales, often irregular phrase lengths, mixed meters, and infectious rhythms. Although Janáček does not quote folk music in this opera, he does quote some folk texts, and he creates his own wonderful folk-like music to go with them. Essential qualities of Moravian folk music, too, are subtly infused throughout the work in various harmonies and melodic patterns.

Finally, Janáček created a musical motif made up of three notes to represent love: A-flat ascending to D-flat ascending a step to E-flat. This motif is not exclusive to this opera, either—it occurs in Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Vanished, Kát’a Kabanová, the Violin Sonata, and other works. However, it occurs the most in The Cunning Little Vixen. It is heard most prominently throughout the Vixen and Fox love duet, in the otherworldly off-stage chorus that opens their scene, and also in the orchestra at the very end of the opera.

Along with a musical style rooted in the Moravian countryside, The Cunning Little Vixen takes place in Moravia, and features animals, insects, and even mushrooms from Moravia. Humans are the Forester, Schoolmaster, and Parson—the upper crust of the village—along with the Forester’s Wife, an Innkeeper, and the Innkeeper’s Wife, as well as the poultry-dealer and poacher Harašta, and the boys Frantík and Pepík.

From the opening notes of the opera we are immediately drawn into Janáček’s sound-world, with its fascinating rhythms, colors, harmonies, and melodies depicting nature’s animals, insects, and the forest. And so begins a unique theatrical work, filled with dance, song, musical speaking, gorgeous lyricism and orchestral interludes, and both animals and people, often interacting, all trying to find their way in the world.

Into this unique world come universal truths. The forest has long been filled with symbolisms, and indeed, the forest here is where the Vixen finds freedom and love; the Schoolmaster and Parson reveal and confront their past; and the Forester, a guardian of the forest itself, has a profound revelation. Through love, the Vixen is transformed from a wild, fiercely independent creature. Through nature, the Forester is transformed from a crass, guardedly rough person into a comtemplative poet as he sees the beauty of the circle of life, and his place in that circle. The love motif shines through after his revelation, his farewell.

Along the way, we see a natural world of animals who—like humans—sometimes quarrel and sometimes struggle to survive, but who are fully themselves. This contrasts with the more complicated world of people, who often try to control nature and themselves, guarding their secrets and inner turmoil until love, compassion, and understanding—or nature—help them find a way.

Janáček himself commented that the poacher Harašta and the Vixen share a lot in common. They both depend on poultry for their survival, he noted, and in Harašta the Vixen finally meets her match. Perhaps this is because Harašta is more in tune with nature than the other humans. He has learned to be cunning. His heavy use of dialect reveals that he is unencumbered by human education and what is “proper.” Somehow, he has even been able to woo and marry the unattainable, even unseen, Terynka, who broke the hearts of others in the inn.

Yes, all wonderfully quirky, magical, beautiful, touching, moving, and life-affirming! For me, my encounters with this opera have always touched something personal—from my first encounter with The Cunning Little Vixen as an opera coach apprentice in Prague in the 1990s, when I met my future wife, who was a dragonfly; to U-M’s first production in 2002, as we awaited the birth of our son six months later; and other wonderful productions scattered here and there, although not all coinciding with such life-changing events! With this new, wonderful production, as I look down the road I begin to relate more with the aging Forester and the beauty of life’s renewal. . . May you ALL find beauty, delight, magic, and enrichment in Janáček’s Adventures of the Vixen Sharp-Ears!

–Timothy Cheek

The University of Michigan is located on the territory of the Anishinaabe people. In 1817, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadami Nations made the largest single land transfer to the University of Michigan, ceded in the Treaty of Fort Meigs, so that their children could be educated. We acknowledge the history of native displacement that allowed the University of Michigan to be founded. Today we reaffirm contemporary and ancestral Anishinaabek ties to the land and their profound contributions to this institution.


Thursday/Saturday Cast

Costumes Behind-The-Scenes, Part 1

Costumes Behind-The-Scenes, Part 2

Costumes Behind-The-Scenes, Part 3