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<<  -- 2 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT


Yet despite this triumphalism the third and final act accepts the disparity between Man and Nature as tragic, while revealing that a choice between tragedy and triumph may still be available. The orchestral introduction grips us by the scruff of the neck in the venom with which it makes (human) hunting and stalking aurally incarnate. Harasta, the figure of destiny, is a Poacher who is not clearly distinguished from the Forester who purports to be a guardian of nature. The Poacher sings a quasi-folk song in a C sharp (equivalent to D flat) minor, about a mythical girl who wears an ecologically green skirt. The Vixen and her Fox appear with their by now numerous children, joyfully frolicking in the forest, criss-crossing with the hunting and stalking humans, whose conserving and destroying roles as gamekeeper and poacher mirror the complexity of the nature-nurture relationship. In the confused and confusing melée the Poacher, perhaps accidentally, shoots the Vixen: an act more heinous than Nature's natural deaths since he, being potentially conscious, might have known better. The Vixen dies to amorphously floating fifths and fourths, still over love's pedal D flat.

The final scene is appropriately betwixt and between man and nature, since it takes place -- thought this is not evident in this otherwise impeccable production -- in a garden behind the inn, converted by artifact-making humans into a spruce bowling-green, green as God's but regimented as human architecture. The orchestral prelude is irresolute in whole-tone flutterings at once physical and vague. Human formalization begins to impose itself as the Forester tells his Wife that the Vixen's burrow has been deserted, the music registering heart-felt loss. The Schoolmaster broods on the parallel between the loss of the gypsy-vixen and of the human gypsy girl Terynka, whom he had yearned after, and perhaps now does the more so, because she is about to be married to the dastardly Poacher. The Forester laments the aging of everyone, including his greying humanized hound. We all chase shadows, as did the Schoolmaster and Parson as they pursued the Vixen among the wood's moony sunflowers. The motif of regret sighs in love's D flat major: frail consolation for us humans who are unique in knowing that, in Ben Jonson's words, 'you grow old while I tell you this'.

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Copyright © 2 October 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK




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