If you haven’t busted out your copy of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in a while, you might want to refresh the family memory before heading to the Dicapo Opera Theatre to see it live this month. The basics: Mr. Fox, head of a family, steals from the farmers. The farmers attempt to get him: “They shoot his tail off, they hire this big digger machine to expose the foxhole,” explains Michael Capasso, Dicapo’s general director. But the Foxes and all of their friends liberate the farmer’s chickens and ultimately prevail. Tobias Picker’s action-packed adaptation will be sung by professionals, with Capasso serving as an emcee of sorts. “I warm up the kids, give them operatic terminology—brava and bravo, explain what an aria is—and explain what they’re going to see.” Scene changes are done in the open, so the audience can see how it all works. The opera, which is making its New York debut, is greatly condensed for the tots (running time is about an hour) but not dumbed down, with a postshow question-and-answer session with the singers and director. Capasso is endlessly amused by the questions: “ ‘Does it hurt to do that?’ ‘Where is the microphone?’ They’re amazed the human voice can be that loud.” Opera is best for kids 4 and up, but Dicapo keeps the first rows free for younger fans. “They can walk up to the edge of the orchestra pit and look—we’re not too strict.” He thinks it’s important for the future of opera to expose kids to it at the youngest age at which they can possibly sit still. “Opera lovers you have to grow. They’re like tomato plants.” Today’s Mr. Fox fan, Capasso hopes, is tomorrow’s subscriber.
12/20 and 12/21 at 11 a.m. 184 E. 76th St., nr. Third Ave. (212-288-9438, ext. 10, or dicapo.com); $20 adults, $10 kids.