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The Cunning Little Vixen

Victorian Opera
Arts Centre Melbourne, Playbox
June 2017

Vixen - Celeste Lazarenko
Fox - Antoinette Halloran
Forester - Barry Ryan
Forester's Wife/Owl - Dimity Shepherd
Schoolmaster/Mosquito - Brenton Spiteri
Harašta - Samuel Dundas
Parson/Badger - Jeremy Kleeman

Chorus
Pásek (Innkeeper) - Paul Biencourt; Mrs. Pásková/Dog - Lynlee Williams; Tyrenka/Hen - Danielle Calder; Chocholka - Cristina Russo; Cockerel - Alexandra Ioan; Hen/ Woodpecker - Belinda Paterson; Hen/Jay - Diana Simpson; Hen - Kerrie Bolton & Michelle McCarthy; Chorus -  Paul Hughes, Michael LapiñaKiran Rajasingam

Children’s Chorus
Cricket/Pepík/Fox Cub - Sophia Wasley; Frog/Frantík/Fox Cub - Lisha Ooi; Bee/Fox Cub - Maia Hanrahan; Bee/Fox Cub - Harmony Lee; Caterpillar/Fox Cub - Maggie Orr; Dragonfly/Fox Cub - Eliza O’Connor; Grasshopper/Fox Cub - Hayley Edwards; Snail/Fox Cub - Emilie Washington; Young Vixen - Ruby Ditton

Orchestra Victoria
Conductor - Jack Symonds
Director - Stuart Maunder AM
Set Design - Richard Roberts
Costume Design - Roger Kirk AM
Lighting Design - Trudy Dalgleish

Sung in English

White Hat attended on opening night - Wednesday 22nd June 2017

Programme - The Cunning Little Vixen

The Cunning Little Vixen is one of the gems of 20th century opera. Written by Leoš Janáček as his creativity was peaking in his late 60s, it was inspired by a serialised newspaper comic strip featuring forest creatures, farm animals and humans. This might sound like the recipe for a light children’s entertainment but the storyline eschews simple sentimentality or empty buffoonery.

Victoria Opera’s production of this important work is one to treasure.

Stuart Maunder’s production strikes just the right balance with the colourful woodland creatures interacting perfectly believably with their drabber human counterparts. The English translation sits naturally, which is not always the case with opera. Roger Kirk’s costumes have fun with visual puns, while the raked set and stylised bare trees are beautifully proportioned to the auditorium. The directors and designers have understood that the forest is best left to be clothed by Janáček’s richly varied score.

At this point it should be noted that it is not Janáček’s original score that is used for this production, but recent orchestration for chamber orchestra by Jonathan Dove. Although deftly done, this does rob the music of one dimension with the body in the climactic surges or the contrast between full orchestra and chamber groupings. However a full orchestra would neither fit the pit nor the acoustics of the Playhouse, and bonus is that audience is provided with more intimate contact with the performers.

Orchestra Victoria continue in the particularly fine form they have been demonstrating recently, and even though the simultaneous use of larger forces for the ballet meant additional players were recruited for Vixen, the results were still uniformly splendid and Jack Symonds conducting was suitably assured.

The cast is splendid with not one weak link among man, woman, child or creature. The whole performance is grounded by Barry Ryan’s aging Forester. His fine baritone shows no sign of strain above the stave and is always at the service of the music. Celeste Lazarenko’s Vixen is coquettish, vulnerable and mature in turn as required, with comfortable stage presence and vocal security. Antoinette Halloran presents a suitably wily fox with just the occasional vocal challenge in this difficult part. Dimity Shepherd has fun with the part of the owl as well as adding world-weariness to the role of the Forester’s Wife. Brenton Spiteri as the mosquito and schoolmaster adds a pleasantly reedy tenor ideally suited to Middle European music, while Samuel Dundas as Harašta and Jeremy Kleeman as the Parson and Badger add some suitably darker timbres to the vocal palette. The child performers are uniformly wonderful and it is a pleasure to see the next generation of performers bouncing, wriggling and strutting their stuff.

However, this work doesn’t just depend on a handful of soloists, and is a true ensemble between soloists, adult chorus members and children’s chorus creatures. After all, we are reminded at the end of the opera of transience and regeneration of life, not by a self-important aria from a chief protagonist, but in a few simple words from a tiny frog – sung beautifully in this case by Lisha Ooi.

This little production will live long in the memory. Better still were it to live long in the repetoire of Victorian Opera.

Our rating - 4½ Hats

Hat Hat Hat Hat Hat

BL

Copyright © 1995 - 2017 White Hat.

Some forthcoming performances featuring music from The Cunning Little Vixen:


___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Selected Sheet Music of The Cunning Little Vixen

Cover tiny file look inside The Cunning Little Vixen Opera in 3 Acts. Composed by Leos Janacek (1854-1928). This edition: English/German/Czech. Piano reduction/vocal score. Universal Edition #UE033550. Published by Universal Edition (PR.UE033550).
Cover tiny file look inside The Cunning Little Vixen Opera in 3 Acts. Composed by Leos Janacek (1854-1928). The New Study Score Series. Study score. Duration 1 hour, 50 minutes. Universal Edition #UE034126. Published by Universal Edition (PR.UE034126).
Cover tiny file look inside Cunning Little Vixen, Libretto Composed by Leos Janacek (1854-1928). With Standard notation. Universal Edition #UE008319. Published by Universal Edition (PR.UE008319).
Cover tiny file look inside Cunning Little Vixen, Libretto English Composed by Leos Janacek (1854-1928). Libretto. Published by Universal Edition (EA.UE08319E).