Opera Review: 'The Cunning Little Vixen'

David Pountney's direction and Maria Bjornson's sets are imaginative and in exceedingly good taste.

By URY EPPSTEIN
March 2, 2009 12:15
1 minute read.
Opera Review: 'The Cunning Little Vixen'

Opera good 88 248. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Israeli Opera The Cunning Little Vixen By Leos Janacek Opera House Tel Aviv February 25 In The Cunning Little Vixen, performed by the Israeli Opera in a production of the Welsh and the Scottish Operas, Janacek succeeds to combine two concepts that are usually a contradiction in terms - sensitivity and opera. Despite carefully avoiding explicit or ostentatious statements, he nevertheless makes his intentions unmistakably clear: subtly satirizing verbose phraseology of communism and feminism as well as emphasizing his idea that real humanity can be found only in animals, while the humans are beastly in behavior and character. A moving love duet expressing genuine sentiment, such as sung by the Vixen and the Fox, could never be expected from the Forester, the Schoolmaster or the Parson, obsessed as they are by their ridiculous impotent erotic perversities and fantasies. David Pountney's direction and Maria Bjornson's sets, despite some conservative elements, are imaginative and in exceedingly good taste. Excellent use is made of the orchestral Introduction and many Interludes by appealing choreographies and silent actions. A rock splitting down the middle to reveal a dwelling was an impressive effect when it happened for the first time. When repeated several times, however, it became, well, repetitive. In the title role, Lana Kos displayed a bright, clear soprano. The Vixen's personality, though, might have favored a less assertive and more cute voice production. The Fox, for some strange reason assigned to a mezzo-soprano in this non-Baroque opera, was convincingly portrayed by Sarah Castle. Among the male roles, baritone Johannes Mannov represented a credible Forester. Vladimir Braun's sonorous bass-baritone sounded well done, perhaps too much so, in the role of the undeserving Parson. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Jonathan Webb, poignantly expressed the work's emotional intensity and dramatic effects. The excellently choreographed final crowd scene pointedly conveyed this masterpiece's at-once depressing and encouraging message: What there was is what there will be.

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