|Zoe Perman Baldwin, Kathleen Cronie and Robyn Allegra Parton|
Although Janáček wrote his first opera 'Šárka' in 1887-8, it was towards the last years of his life that he really turned to this art form, including (in 1921-3) 'The Cunning Little Vixen'(Příhody lišky Bystroušky or The adventures of the vixen Sharp-Ears). Janáček based the libretto on an illustrated story in the newspaper Lidové noviny by author Rudolf Těsnohlídek and artist Stanislav Lolek. It is also thought to draw on his own experiences of unrequited love and a reflection on the increasing wisdom of age and the cycle of life.
I say not childish because, although the animals were definitely cute in this performance, they were also allegorical and the opera touches on complex subjects such as rape, slavery and socialism. Our furry heroine is not nice. The vixen, in typical fox-in-a-hen-house fashion, kills all the forester's chickens, takes over another animal's den, and lords over the humans even as they lay traps to catch her.
More people took part in the scheme than there were characters, so each night had a different cast. On Saturday (23rd August) evening the vixen and her fox were performed by Robyn Allegra Parton and Tanya Hurst, with Chi Wang Chen playing the young vixen. The young singers were perfect for the roles with clear diction and tight control of their voices without the heaviness of voice which can come with age. Robyn and Tanya definitely stole the show in their scenes together; the gleam in Tanya's eyes was delightful. Robyn was mesmerising and mischievous throughout making the fox lovable despite its nature.
|Robyn Allegra Parton, Joanna Harries, |
Tom Asher, Alexandra Dinwiddie & Laura Curry
The gypsy Terynka (Abbi Temple), who is the (unrequited) love interest, is the alter ego of the vixen. In this production the parallel was underscored by being dressed in the same colours and Terynka had a furry collar to match the vixen's ears. The other humans were all fallible and world weary and very believable in their narrow-mindedness. The forester (baritone Tom Asher) had a major part in setting the scene for the fox's shenanigans and providing a frame for the major theme of the opera.
|Robyn Allegra Parton and Tanya Hurst|
Conducted by Martin Handley, the music was deftly performed by two unnamed pianists hidden beneath the stage who had the unenviable task of being an entire orchestra. Pre-performance and during the interval they provided a bit of extra music to keep everyone in the mood.
The co-opera development programme's next production is The Mikado in April 2015.
Reviewed by Hilary Glover
VIXEN Robyn Allegra Parton
GYPSY Abbi Temple
FOX Tanya Hurst
FORESTER Tom Asher
HARAŠTA Ashley Mercer
DOG Lisa Coates
COCK Francesca Matta
SCHOOLMASTER Daryl Arambhan
PARSON Andy Armistead
FORESTER'S WIFE Joanna Harries
INNKEEPER Julian Issa
INNKEEPER'S WIFE Kathleen Cronie
CRESTED HEN Faye Eldret
BADGER Andy Armistead
FRANTIK Heather Heighway
PEPIK Zoe Perman
JAY Stephanie Smith
MOSQUITO Jayne Carmichael Norrie
OWL Laura Curry
WOODPECKER Charlotte Osborn
YOUNG VIXEN Chi Wang Chen
FROG Maria Preibsch Vidal
GRASSHOPPER Alice Usher
CRICKET Camilla Jeppeson
Chi Wang Chen
Jayne Carmichael Norrie
Maria Preibsch Vidal
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Exciting music theatre: Walton and Maxwell Davies at Grimeborn - opera review
- Musically engaging: Cosi fan tutte from Opera Lyrica - opera review
- What exactly am I listening to: Vexed question of cuts in live performance - feature article
- Essential listening: Sacred music by Arvo Part - CD review
- Prom 59: Radiant Elektra with Christine Goerke - opera review
- Prom 58: Magical Salome with Nina Stemme - opera review
- Entrancing & engrossing: Coronation of Poppea at Grimeborn