Janácek: The Cunning Little Vixen
Capturing Melly Still’s 2012 staging of The Cunning Little Vixen on film was a challenge indeed. Every scene is dense with whirling event, from lissom dragonflies dancing to birds chattering in the tree branches and a frog hopping in the pond, much of it occurring under Paule Constable’s magical moonlight or by dancers abseiling down the steeply-raked stage behind the set’s dominating central tree. But film director Thomas Grimm has well-nigh achieved it in this minutely responsive account.
Melly Still, with her background in choreography and a very visceral take on children’s theatre, is an ideal director. There’s nothing cutesy about her treatment of the animal characters, who form a parade of grotesques: the frilly, silly hens are sex-workers tripping in on teetering heels, the mosquito consumes blood like a jaded addict, while Vixen Sharp-Ears (Lucy Crowe) is a rebellious, DM-wearing adolescent, more runaway killer than seductress.
In the ‘extra’ feature, Still makes the point that while the humans are trapped in their time, animals, lacking individuality, defy it. She conveys this powerfully by pitting sad, monochrome human scenes in 19th-century dress against a rainbow stream of animal hi-jinks, suffused with the stink of pheromones.
With penetrating skill, Vladimir Jurowski allows this extraordinary score to glitter and sing, his orchestral interludes breathe luminescence. Both Emma Bell (the Fox) and Crowe blaze beside Leiferkus’s poignant Forester.