Cunning Little Vixen lit by Trudy Dalgleish

Posted on Friday, June 30th, 2017

The forest comes alive in Victorian Opera’s new production of Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen. One of the great masterpieces of early twentieth century music, this rarely-heard opera was staged for five performances only.

Celebrating the beauty of nature and cycle of life, Cunning Little Vixen muses on the interaction between human and animal life. Set in an idyllic forest, the story follows a Vixen’s lyrical journey from youth to adulthood.

It’s about a forester who catches a baby vixen and takes it home to his kids for a pet. The baby vixen grows up at the forester’s house and his kids annoy the baby fox by poking it with sticks, so it kills all his chickens and escapes back to the forest where it meets a boy fox and they have cubs. The forester spends the rest of the opera trying to shoot the vixen, until one of his neighbours does it for him, to make the vixen into a muff for his new wife. Boy you have to love opera, always a happy ending! It’s basically about renew and the cycle of life and its set in a European forest through all the seasons.

Lighting designer Trudy Dalgleish was asked to create two worlds; the world of the animals which was beautiful and full of saturated colour and the world of the humans, which was stark, black and white, devoid of all colour. Trudy had to light all the seasons, in both worlds.

Trudy’s biggest challenge was the set which was a raked stage surrounded on three sides by sharks tooth gauzes and the stage itself was filled with skeletal metal trees.

“It usually takes me a week to work out a design, but this one took me three weeks of working out angles,” admitted Trudy. “The problem was if I was to light it from the front I would run into the trees, if I lit it from the sides there was only a 1700 gap before I would run into the gauze – so it was a real challenge to just light the people. The gauzes were hard as there was no space offstage to light through them and if I lit them from the front I would run into those trees again!”

Trudy commented that lamp placement was the most critical she has ever done. The result was six Claypaky Alphas located three metres behind the back scrim and three Martin MAC Vipers on lx 1 to light the back scrim. The sides were lit with two Alphas and two Vipers per scrim from the ends of the onstage lighting bars.

“This meant I could just squeeze past the onstage trees from the side,” she explained. “I have to say it was the hardest design I have ever done in the challengers that I had to work out. It seemed that once I had solved one problem, I had created another one or two! It was a real brain strain, but it looked so simple.”

Trudy needed shuttered lights with a large beam angle and she wasn’t able to use what she first requested as the hire company the opera preferred to use didn’t have that equipment.
“So I settled for Martin Viper Performances and Claypaky Alpha 700 profiles for the scrims, Martin Viper spots for the floor gobos and Quantum washes for the colour washes and specials,” she said. “The people light was supplied by ETC Source 4 26 degrees on side booms. Control was an MA Lighting grandMA 2 programmed by Peter Darby, Head LX for the Victoria Opera. I loved how bright the Quantums were, I ran them at only 20% for most of the show and I can’t wait to use them in an arena environment next week.”

Trudy’s favourite aspect of the production was being able to reproduce all the seasons in the animal world, she was really pleased with how they turned out.

Trudy can be contacted via her agent