Penny Gore presents Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen in a performance given in 2010 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Charles Mackerras.
Penny Gore presents Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, first heard in 2010 from the Royal Opera House, conducted by Charles Mackerras in one of the final performances before his death.
Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen holds a very special place in the repertoire - an opera whose characters are a mixture of human beings and animals which tells the story of the life of a Vixen. We meet her woodland friends and enemies - and their lives are contrasted with the human characters who live nearby. But the magic of Janacek's score is in the way he portrays all of these lives with his most colourful and deftly woven music, sometimes spiky, sometimes intensely lyrical.
Vixen Sharp-Ears ..... Emma Matthews (soprano)
Forester ..... Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Fox ..... Elizabeth Meister (soprano)
Schoolmaster/Mosquito ..... Robin Leggate (tenor)
Gamekeeper's Wife/Owl ..... Madeleine Shaw (mezzo-soprano)
Priest/Badger ..... Jeremy White (bass)
Harasta ..... Matthew Rose (bass)
Pasek ..... Alasdair Elliott (tenor)
Inkeeper's Wife ..... Elizabeth Sikora (mezzo-soprano)
Pepik ..... Simona Mihai (soprano)
Frantik ..... Elizabeth Cragg (soprano)
Rooster/Jay ..... Deborah Peake-Jones (soprano)
Chief Hen ..... Glenys Groves (soprano)
Cricket ..... Peter Shafran (treble)
Caterpillar .....Talor Hanson (child soprano)
Frog ..... Harry Bradford (treble)
Young Vixen ..... Eleanor Burke (child soprano)
Woodpecker ..... Amanda Floyd (mezzo-soprano)
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
conductor Sir Charles Mackerras
Hadley: Salome, Op 55
BBC Concert Orchestra
conductor Rebecca Miller.
‘How Sharp-Ears was caught’
Summer; the forest in the afternoon
The Badger snoozes in the sun, pestered by flies, and the Blue Dragonfly dances. The Forester, on his way home, stops for a nap. While he is asleep the Cricket and the Caterpillar make music. A young Frog, trying to catch a Mosquito, attracts the attention of a vixen cub. The Frog lands on the Gamekeeper, waking him. The Forester grabs the Vixen and takes her away. Dusk falls. The Blue Dragonfly searches for the Vixen.
‘Sharp-Ears at the Gamekeeper’s lakeside farmyard’; ‘Sharp-Ears as politician’; ‘Sharp-Ears runs away’
Autumn; the farmyard
The Vixen, now being reared as a pet, befriends the dog and rebuffs his advances. When she defends herself against the teasing of the Forester’s son and his friend she is tied up. Night falls and the Vixen sleeps. In her dreams her spirit soars to freedom.
At dawn the Vixen scoffs at the hens: they are exploited by humans and by their leader, the Rooster. The Vixen appeals in vain to the hens’ feminist feelings and, shocked at their conservatism, feigns suicide. Her plan has worked: when the Rooster is sent to investigate, she kills him, then polishes off all the hens. Confronted by the Forester and his wife, the Vixen bites through her rope and escapes.
‘Sharp-Ears expropriates a home’
Autumn; the forest, late afternoon
The Vixen taunts the Badger, ruthlessly evicts him from his comfortable home and takes it over.
Winter; the inn
The Forester, the Schoolmaster and the Priest play cards. The Gamekeeper mocks the Schoolmaster about his reticence and hopeless love for Terynka, a gypsy girl. The Priest is troubled by sexual guilt. But the Forester too is vulnerable to taunts: mocked about his Vixen, he leaves.
Winter; the forest in the moonlight
As the Schoolmaster stumbles drunkenly home, the Vixen peeps out through the trees. The Schoolmaster mistakes her for Terynka and pours his heart out. The Priest, also the worse for drink, catches sight of the Vixen and confuses her with a girl he was wrongly accused of seducing when he was young. The Forester takes both men by surprise and fires two shots after the Vixen.
‘Sharp-Ears’s courtship’; ‘Sharp-Ears’s love and marriage’
Summer; the forest in the moonlight
The Vixen meets a handsome Fox and tells him the story of her life. The Fox woos her, they mate, and, having scandalized the gossiping birds, are married. The forest creatures celebrate.
‘Sharp-Ears outwits Harašta from Lusen’; ‘Sharp-Ears’s death’
Winter; the forest at midday
Harašta, a poacher, is about to pick up a dead hare when he sees the Forester, who suspects him of poaching it. Harašta explains that he is on his way to see Terynka, whom he is to marry. The Forester, realizing that the hare is one of the Vixen’s victims, uses it as a trap for her. The Vixen, the Fox and their cubs poke fun at the clumsily laid trap and the parents happily watch their growing family. Harašta returns to collect the hare. The Vixen lures him away so that the cubs can rifle his bag. But her gloating triumph at outwitting Harašta angers him and he shoots her.
The Schoolmaster weeps when he hears that Terynka is to marry. He and the Forester both regret that the Priest has moved away. The Forester reflects on his age and sets off for the forest.
‘The young Sharp-Ears, the spitting image of her mother’
Summer: the forest in the afternoon
The Forester muses on the beauty of the forest, where life is continually renewed. He recalls his courtship and wedding and contentedly falls asleep. As he dreams, the forest creatures appear, including a little vixen. The Forester tries to catch her but catches a Frog instead – grandson of the Frog who attracted the Vixen’s attention at the beginning of her adventures. Dropping his gun, the Forester surrenders to the forest.
- With thanks to the Royal Opera House.