Fox-tot! (5 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: James Glossop

Scottish Opera hits the right note in second opera for infants

There is something alarming and delightful in equal measure about watching your toddlers run amok on the Scottish Opera stage. It breaks every rule you know about 'going to the opera'. No fourth walls here, no silent reverence for the classical craft. Fox-tot! is Scottish Opera's second production for infants – it's geared to the 12–24 month age range, following BambinO for 6–18 months – and the company has thoroughly embraced the chaos that comes with an audience in its peak fidget-heckler phase.

We sit on benches and cushions in a semi-circle (musicians are protected on podiums) while mezzo-soprano Katie Grosset and countertenor Daniel Keating-Roberts sing a simple story about a fox (tot) who transforms into different animals; a cat, a butterfly, a fabulous frog.

Giuseppe and Emma Belli's set is made of tactile, inviting colours and textures, with a swirling, whispering pile of fabric leaves in autumnal colours at its heart, begging to be tossed and scattered around by performers and toddlers alike. When a fluffy yellow sun is rolled out by Grosset there is a collective gasp before many legs teeter towards it, hands held out to touch its surface.

Both Grosset and Keating-Roberts are wonderful performers – you've got to take your hat off to anyone who can do their job with such focus and brilliance while gently wrangling an army of small people.

And Lliam Paterson's original score is glorious – a gorgeous piece of music in its own right, but also one that is subtly tailored to its audience, quenching thirsts for discovery by weaving in different musical styles and references, and switching form and instrument frequently for short attention spans.

It's a show that places its audience at the centre (quite literally at times), never once condescending, but always gently challenging small ears and eyes.

Edinburgh Academy, until 16 Aug (not 12), 10am & 11.30am, £12 (adult and baby); £7 additional adult.

Scottish Opera: Fox-Tot!

Imaginative mix of music and puppetry for young children.