Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Leoš Janáček, The Cunning Little Vixen (1924)

I am not even going to put the original title up there, which is Příhody lišky Bystroušky. It's just not happening, except to the extent that it just happened. My impression is that this is the second-most-internationally-famous Czech opera, trailing only Dvořák's Rusalka. And boy is it...something.

Well, the story is pretty simple, in outline: a forester finds a young fox cub and takes her home as a pet. Eventually, she grows up, gets tired of this domesticity, and escapes. She meets a male fox and they get married and have a bunch of cubs. A poacher shoots the vixen. The forester learns about it and is sad, but then learns about the Circle of Life. Hakuna Matata. E pluribus unum. Hic haec...hoc.

This is a very experimental opera; not like anything I'd seen before or was expecting. Sometimes I felt like it was more of, I don't know, a spectacle with incidental music. Certainly there are striking musical moments, but as a whole the music feels rather understated, given the form.

Of course, I also think that, perhaps more than any opera I've seen, the whole tenor of the thing could be dramatically altered by the individual production. You're switching between two levels, of the human and animal worlds, so you need to do something fairly dramatic there, but exactly what seems open to interpretation. This production here featured a lot of minimalistic costumes meant to suggest animality, along with a lot of children, stuffed animals, wooden toys and the like, emphasizing the folk-y artificiality of the whole. It was a little confusing--I'd absolutely be up for seeing another production for contrast--but generally cool. The singing was uniformly pretty-good. Nothing jaw-dropping, but not much to complain about. Jana Šrejma Kačirková as the vixen was appropriately vulpine in her movement.

You know, I'm always into pushing boundaries and such-like, and as such, I dug this. But I'm not quite sure whether--if you're just looking for some friggin' opera--this'll necessarily be the thing for you. Still. It does stay with one, and I would like to revisit it at some point in a different production.


Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

Wow! I don't know why but I realy want to see this one now... THANKS GEOX!

5:08 PM  

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