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Animated Operas

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The Cunning Little Vixen Papageno Hansel and Gretel
Operavox Salzburg Marionette Theatre Love and War

The Cunning Little Vixen

This is a great film if you get the chance to watch it - great animation, a great opera and great performances.

Several singers who have appeared with EPOC feature on the soundtrack including: Keel Watson (EPOC Tristan and Isolde) as the dog Harašta; Andrew Foster-Williams (EPOC La Mere Coupable) as the badger; and Richard Roberts (EPOC Love for Three Oranges) as the Cockerel.


In 1920, a popular Czech newspaper bought a series of 200 drawing from a local painter, Stanislav Lolek. The paper asked one of its journalists to provide some text for the pictures, and, in that form they were issued in just over 50 instalments throughout the mid-1920’s. The composer Janácek first saw the cartoons when his maid Marie showed him cuttings from the paper, and Janácek was so entranced by them he made an opera libretto, which eventually became his own opera The Cunning Little Vixen.

To watch some highlights from the film click  below:

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If you thought Walt Disney made the first long animated movie then think again. A German woman, Lotte Reiniger, (who later came to live in Barnet in the UK) made the first full-length animated feature in 1926. This short film, made using silhouette animation is based on the "Magic Flute" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

''Papageno'' (Germany, 1935, 11 mins) is from Mozart's Magic Flute, where Papageno, a happy bird catcher, dreams of winning a beautiful woman. He eventually finds his dream girl, Papageno. At the end of the film birds lay large eggs, from which hatch Papagenos and Papagenas, to the strains of Mozart's music.

Lotte Reiniger was born in Berlin in Germany in 1899. She was fascinated with the Chinese art of silhouette puppetry, even building her own puppet theatre so she could put on shows for her family and friends. As a teenager, Reiniger fell in love with cinema and the fantastic possibilities of animation. With the rise of the Nazi Party, Reiniger and her husband decided to emigrate but found that no other country would give them permanent visas. In 1949 she was able to move to London and eventually worked at the Abbey Arts Centre in High Barnet. There is masses of her stuff to watch on the web – but have a look at this Papageno film – all created with a pair of scissors and some black card!

If you are interested in how the film was made click on the following picture and watch a programme (in two parts) about the artist The Art of Lotte Reiniger.

Click on the picture to see the second part of The Art of Lotte Reiniger.

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Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel was an animated feature produced in 1954 by Michael Myerberg. This version of the opera uses stop-action animation, with over 35 hand-sculpted ‘Kinemen’ dolls (a precursor to claymation). The Kinemen characters featured in the film took over 15 years to develop. You can watch it below.

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In 1993 six different people were chosen by S4C to make short versions of six famous operas: Turandot, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Carmen and Rhinegold. The intention of the Animated Opera series was to bring opera to new, young audiences in a fresh and accessible way. Each selection is approximately 30 minutes in length.

Opera Vox: Magic Flute

The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) - On a lonely summit a king lies dying. His final act must be to bequeath the 'seven-fold circle of the sun' - source of wisdom and power. Gathered about him are his wife, the Queen of Night, his daughter, Pamina, and Sarastro, leader of the Brotherhood.

Valeri Oganov made the film using traditional cel animations

Opera Vox: Rigoletto

Rigoletto (Guiseppe Verdi) - Italy, 400 years ago. Rigoletto, the hunchback, is Court Jester to the not-very-nice Duke of Mantua. Rigoletto's obsession is to save his daughter, Gilda, from the Duke and his court.

Claymation. Barry J.C. Purves captures the malevolent pleasures and crushing sorrows of the court of Mantua in his atmospheric rendition of Verdi's Rigoletto.

Opera Vox: Turandot

Turandot (Giacomo Puccini) - The Chinese princess Turandot sets riddles for her suitors, executing all those who fail to answer correctly. Exiled Prince Calef sets his own riddle: Turandot must discover his name before dawn.

Gary Hurst's retelling of Puccini's Turandot uses traditional cel animation.

Opera Vox: The Barber of Seville

Barber of Seville (Giachino Rossini) - Figaro the barber and the rich Count Almaviva both attempt to woo the closely guarded Rosina. But first there's Rosina's nasty guardian Dr Barolo and his slander-loving friend, Don Basilio, to contend with.

The stop-motion animation with puppets is by Natalia Dabizha.

Opera Vox: Carmen

Carmen (George Bizet) - Seville, Spain 1820, siesta. The relief platoon is due at the guardhouse just as the girls are returning to work at the Tobacco Factory.

The film is made by Mario Cavalli who paints over live-action footage with the characters in this piece played live, but treated in postproduction to look as if they are cel animations.

Opera Vox: Rheingold

Based on Icelandic lore, Rhinegold is an epic tale of the lust for power in the mythical world of gods, giants, dwarves and underwater maidens. Made by Graham Ralph using traditional cel animations


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Salzburg Marionette Theatre

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre was established in 1913 and is one of the oldest continuing marionette theatres in the world. It is based in Austria. Original productions featured live actors and musicians. Today soundtracks are recorded. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre performs a large repertoire of operas, ballets and productions for children, using marionettes. They produce DVD’s of many operas including Cosi fan tutte, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and the The Marriage of Figaro some of which you can see on You Tube.

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Love and War

During her training to become a nurse, Bunny meets, by mere chance, the handsome fighter pilot Bear. Romance ensues and they form a couple. When Bear is about to propose, they are suddenly interrupted by an international conflict. Duty calls and Bear is sent into battle.

"Love and War" won best animated/experimental short film at Los Angeles Film Festival 2007, best short film at Nordisk Panorama 2007 and at the Golden Lion Film Festival 2007.

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