<< -- 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.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2 June 2002
Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK
THE WELSH NATIONAL OPERA WEBSITE
WILFRID MELLERS DISCUSSES 'THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN'
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