Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arthaus Musik
ALBUM TITLE: Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen
WORKS: The Cunning Little Vixen
PERFORMER: Quinn Kelsey; Judith Christin; Dennis Petersen; Kevin Langan; Gustav Belacek; Federico Lepre; Isabel Bayrakdarian; Marcella Polidori; Lauren Curnow; Orchestre e Coro del Maggio musicale Fiorentino/Seiji Ozawa; dir. Laurent Pelly


With its large cast, child singers and animal costumes, Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen was often thought too problematic for satisfactory production. In fact, it did not really make its way in the world until as late as 1956 with Walter Felsenstein’s Berlin staging. Happily, a number of highly successful productions in Britain, led by David Pountney’s marvellous WNO staging, have established it as a favourite in this country. It’s little wonder, since it contains some of the most attractive and deeply-felt music of Janácek’s maturity, and, moreover, a strong message of renewal that transcends the tragic death of the Vixen herself.


This staging from the Maggio Musicale, Florence, is both ingenious and very attractively designed. Laurent Pelly’s production is efficient at getting the large cast through the drama, but could be more engaged. The abundant humour in the piece comes off slightly half cocked, notably in the scene where the Vixen escapes from the Gamekeeper’s yard after killing the chickens. This is a pity since many of the vocal performances are very fine and the acting, especially where the human characters are concerned, is well characterised. Isabel Bayrakdarian is both touching and commanding as the Vixen and Quinn Kelsey is pleasingly resonant as the Gamekeeper if a touch young-looking for the closing pages. Ozawa conducts with authority and captures the poignant nostalgia of the final scenes with assurance. The orchestral playing is mostly excellent, which is more than can be said for the choral singing. Jan Smaczny