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<<  -- 3 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT


As an epilogue we return to the gully wherein the opera had opened. The sun peeps through as the Forester trudges uphill, meditating on his youth when he and his girl (his wife, or a legendary lost love, or the gypsy Terynka, or the Vixen?) were a sleek spruce and a bristly fir-tree, as sparky as the foxy lovers. Casting aside his faithful but lethal friend, his gun, he rests amongst the flowers, to quotations from the first bars of the opera. Snoozing, he dreams of the girl who is also the vixen. Starting into wakefulness, he imagines that the Vixen stands in front of him, though it is really one of her cubs. A frog, having jumped on his nose, explains that he is not the creature who had hazardously jumped at the beginning of the opera, but that frog's grandson. Nature's fecundity is indestructible, so the murder of the Vixen, if arbitrary, is no occasion for sentiment, let alone sentimentality. The last section begins with the motif of regret, an emotion of which only we humans are capable. Even so, if we can live in communion with Nature and find renewal in its recurrences, regret need not overwhelm us. So the opera ends with another paean to Nature, again in D flat major, and only a shade less triumphant than the wedding song of the mated foxes at the end of Act II. Again, it is cut off abruptly, as by a forester's or poacher's gun; again, we think of the abrupt endings to Bruckner's symphonic allegros, though Janácek's nature-worship has no need of Bruckner's Christian abnegation.

It suffices that the forest endures. At least it did for Janácek, though whether it can for us is an open question, since human rapacity and industrial corruption threaten the Moravian forests no less than they threaten the rain forests of South America. Janácek's parable of humankind and Nature was deeply meaningful when it was created just after the First World War. With the passage of time it has become no less meaningful, but far more desperate. Listening to the blaze of these final pages, played with the irresistable ebullience typical of Opera North's orchestra, we pay tribute to human courage, while recognising that there can never be another Janácek. It is no pious reflection, but sober truth, that we shall not look upon his like again.

Copyright © 2 October 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK




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