grasshopper playing fiddle

Music by Graham Preskett
Book and Lyrics by John Kane
Direction by David Bass, David Cash & David Sandberg
Choreography by Deborah Mason

I.P.A. for prononication of antiphony
n : responsive alternation between two groups especially of singers

Our 2006 production, Antiphony was performed April 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th (3pm and 7pm on Saturdays, 2pm and 6pm on Sundays), at the King Open School, 850 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cast/performance dates

About the Show

Antiphony is an uplifting, inspirational, and funny show for the whole family featuring some industrious ants, a scheming fly, and a fiddling grasshopper who all have a lot to learn about what makes life worth living. The opera is full of catchy tunes written in a variety of accessible musical styles. Performances will be held Cambridge in early April 2006.

Commissioned and performed in 1994 by W11 (West Eleven) Opera for Young People in London, the show was a huge success. North Cambridge Family Opera Company performed the North American premiere of this show in 2002.


The opera opens at Centipede Central Station, a depot for the commuter rail to Ant Colony Junction. Worker ants somberly greet each other and complain of the monotony of their lives. Their despair deepens when the train is canceled, and they are forced to walk.

Two minstrel grasshoppers, Gaspard and Cigale, serenade the ants with a tune so joyful and catchy that the ants are soon cheerfully singing along. The ants all dance merrily off to work, but no one donates even one coin to the grasshoppers. At the Worker Ant Colony, the Foreman (a Dung Beetle) and the other middle managers are distressed by the absence of the workers. When the Worker Queen arrives with her entourage to inspect the work force, they are dismayed by the indifference to the royal family implied by the absence of the Queen's subjects. Just then, the worker ants arrive, still singing happily, and begin to work. The Foreman orders them to be silent, but the Worker Queen overrules him and allows the workers to sing. Productivity skyrockets, and the workers ask that Gaspard and Cigale be retained to provide continued inspiration. The Queen hires the grasshoppers at a modest wage.

These events have been observed silently by a Fly on the wall, who believes the grasshoppers' motivational talents could be marketed lucratively to the neighboring Warrior Ant Colony. The soldier ants there are well trained but cowardly, much to the frustration of their ill-tempered Warrior Queen and her War Cabinet, a collection of old fogies which includes a Stag Beetle (the Brigadier) and a Wasp. The Fly suggests hiring Gaspard and Cigale away from the Worker Ant Colony to motivate the troops. The Queen agrees to pay top dollar for the grasshoppers' services.

Meanwhile, the mood at the Worker Ant Colony is idyllic, as the singing workers serenely work their abdominal body segments off. The Foreman announces that more than enough food has been stockpiled for the winter ahead. The Worker Queen releases the workers from their tasks and declares National Grasshopper Day. All the worker ants and the managers celebrate.

The Fly tries to recruit Gaspard and Cigale to the Warrior Ant Colony, offering riches instead of just gratitude. Gaspard is intrigued, but Cigale is repulsed by the Fly's proposal and runs off with Gaspard's violin in an effort to keep him from going. The Fly brings out a group of flirtatious ladybugs, led by the alluring Miss Tique, who seduce Gaspard into signing the Fly's contract.

The Fly introduces Gaspard to the War Cabinet, and the grasshopper sings for them a gentle song of contentment and peace. The Brigadier and Wasp, who were expecting Gaspard to incite violence instead, are furious at the Fly and terrified of the Warrior Queen's reaction.

They eject Gaspard and the Fly, but while they are making their excuses to the Warrior Queen, Gaspard reappears in black leather with an electric guitar, backed up by the ladybugs dressed as punks. Gaspard sings of savagery and hatred, and the soldier ants are worked into a war frenzy, to the delight of the Warrior Queen.

Cigale, still clutching Gaspard's violin, sings of missing him, and the Worker Queen comforts Cigale. The royal entourage bursts in to announce that soldiers from the Warrior Ant Colony are attacking the Worker Ant Colony. Cigale resolves to find Gaspard and dissuade him from helping in the attack.

Gaspard, the Fly, and the ladybugs are now very wealthy and enjoying all of life's fineries. The War Cabinet, although pleased with Gaspard and the ladybugs, see the Fly as a parasite and expel him from the Warrior Ant Colony. Cigale enters and tries to convince Gaspard not to incite violence with his music, but the Warrior Queen has Cigale arrested and threatens to do away with Cigale unless Gaspard continues to inspire mayhem.

As her soldiers lay siege to the Worker Ant Colony, the Warrior Queen demands all of the Worker Colony's stores. The Worker Queen offers to share, but not surrender, their abundance. This offer intrigues the soldiers, but the Warrior Queen rejects all compromise and orders an attack. The soldiers begin to lose their nerve, and the Warrior Queen commands Gaspard to motivate them.

Fearing for Cigale's safety, Gaspard complies, but suddenly Cigale appears beside the Worker Queen. The Fly has freed Cigale out of vengeance. Cigale throws Gaspard his violin, and he sings a positive, uplifting song which inspires peace and harmony among all the ants.

See photos, and listen to performances from our 2002 Production of Antiphony.