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Ensemble

Sustained Intensity

REX HARLEY enjoys Janácek's
'The Cunning Little Vixen'
at Longborough Festival Opera

 

After an evening of so many delights, it's probably best to get my single criticism out of the way at the outset. The problem is the staging, based on an idea which is fine in theory but which doesn't so happily translate into reality. To whit: a stage full of wheels, some merely resting, some pushed around by the characters -- always elegantly but often aimlessly. They represent, presumably, the cyclic patterns of nature -- the seasons; birth, death, rebirth -- and also the wheel of fortune which sees the vixen triumph, by her ingenuity, over her human foes, only to fall to the poacher's gun in an unguarded moment. But on a very simple level I found myself asking: 'A forest of wheels?'

Ella Kirkpatrick as the Vixen with the Fox Cubs, in Longborough Festival Opera's production of 'The Cunning Little Vixen'. Photo © 2008 Michael Dyer
Ella Kirkpatrick as the Vixen with the Fox Cubs, in Longborough Festival Opera's production of 'The Cunning Little Vixen'. Photo © 2008 Michael Dyer

Admittedly, there are a couple of neat scene changes: one where a large barrel-end stands in for local pub; the other involving a hollowed-out version of the forester's kitchen. But there are also times when the wheels are rolled backwards and forwards for no other purpose, it seems, than to fill a gap in the action. We know that Janácek conceived the orchestral interludes as 'balletic'; the wheels, paradoxically, made them strangely static.

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Copyright © 3 July 2008 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller