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<<  -- 3 --  Rex Harley    PROFOUNDLY LIFE-ENHANCING


Once the Vixen has escaped, tricked the badger out of his lair and set up home there, she emerges in her new, adult costume. Before she was gamine; now, as a liberated young woman of the Twenties (the decade in which the opera was first performed) she wears the dress of a fox-colored flapper. And it is not long before she is being courted by the Dog Fox. There follows perhaps the most delightful scene in the opera which takes us through flirtation, attempted seduction, playing hard-to-get, capitulation and, somewhat belatedly, a hasty marriage by the Woodpecker.

Juanita Lascarro (as the Vixen) and Imelda Drumm (as the Fox) in 'The Cunning Little Vixen'. Photo: Bill Cooper

Within this section Janácek makes wonderful use of the two female voices (soprano for the Vixen; mezzo for the Fox). Juanita Lascarro and Imelda Drumm made a perfect vocal match, and their characterisation was subtle, witty and faultless. The human characters too are well-delineated. Timothy Murfin's Parson sympathetically conveys a man tormented equally by memory and the flesh, whose drunkenness only heightens his pain. James Rutherford's Forester is suitably boorish, but mellows convincingly into the elegiac figure of the final act. His lament for the love he and his now harridan of a wife once shared as they gathered mushrooms, 'trampling the best underfoot' was movingly delivered.

Juanita Lascarro (as the Vixen) and Imelda Drumm (as the Fox). Photo: Bill Cooper

The quality of acting is one of the delights of this production, and nowhere is this truer than in the performance of Wynne Evans as the Schoolmaster, who conveys the origins of the character in a newspaper cartoon strip, without ever slipping into caricature, yet manages to bring out his humanity also: in tears when he turns away from his drunken companions at the inn, and in laughter when he tries to keep his feet in the snowy moonlit landscape. In a slight, but inspired change to the libretto, he no longer mistakes a sunflower for the lost love of his youth, but the Vixen herself, who vamps it up shamelessly in response; and the terms Staccato! and Flageoletto! which he delivers to the trembling flower become instead Glissando! as he slides on his backside down a little hill, and Ma non troppo! as he does it again.

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Copyright © 2 June 2002 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK






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