12. Civilisation and the Savage State
Janácek's 'Vixen' at Opera North
<< Continued from Saturday
For the fourth and last scene of Act II we move back from the fuddled
humans to the animal kingdom and the Vixen's burrow, contemptuously stolen
from the Badger. The Vixen achieves her animal-fulfilment in being courted,
and won, by the fox: a scene for which Janácek characteristically
studied the mating habits of these creatures. In this love-scene the animals'
love-cries begin in A flat major, not minor, and veer to D flat major,
Janácek's key of (especially sexual) love. The dog-fox is played
by a soprano, as are all the characters associated with instinct and intuition;
only the domesticated dog and the compromising badger are sung by male voices.
Giselle Allen, as the Fox, makes a worthily de-bon-air for the Vixen
but never threatens to efface her splendour; their love-duet centres of
course on D flat major, with fiery intrusions of the tonic minor and exciting
cross-rhythms of twos against threes against fives. This is the high point
of the opera, attaining an almost Pucciniesque ardour as the creatures orgasmic
yells swoop in whole-toned arpeggios from high B flat, declining chromatically.
The act ends with a paean of created Nature as the wordless chorus -- sung
with the characteristic ebullience of the Opera North Chorus -- takes up
the Wedding Chant.
Copyright © 2 October 2001
Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK
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