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Second Sight - Music with Wilfrid Mellers

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.

Janis Kelly as the vixen (front) and Giselle Allen as the fox in Opera North's 2001 production of Janacek's 'Cunning Little Vixen'. Photograph (c) Opera North


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Copyright © 2 October 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK




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