ALBUM TITLE: Janáček
WORKS: The Cunning Little Vixen
PERFORMER: Jenis, Allen, Minutillo; Orchestre de Paris/Charles Mackerras; dir. Nicholas Hytner (Chatelet, Paris, 1995)
CATALOGUE NO: 100 240
The world's best Janacek conductor at the helm, the directorial expertise of Nicholas Hytner and the design wit of Bob Crowley all add up to produce one of the most enjoyable opera DVDs to have come my way for a while. Given the strength of the performance and its filming by the ubiquitous Brian Large, it is even possible to overlook the frequent sync lapses between sound and vision (it looks more like editing than dubbing) and the pitiful boast of a 23-minute Arthaus trailer as the only extra. Eva Jenis is a delightful Vixen, strong of voice and sparkling in her characterisation. Thomas Allen sounds a little blustery as the Forester, but there's no doubt that his heart is in the right place. Maybe the Orchestre de Paris does not have the security in Janacek's filigree score of, say, the Vienna Philharmonic on Mackerras's Decca recording, or, indeed, of Britain's experienced pit orchestras, but the colour, the verve and the emotion come across. The sets and costumes, with what can only be described as visual puns in the way they elide the human with the animal, are a constant delight and Hytner captures just the right level of anthropomorphism as well as the profundity of the way Janacek pits human foibles against the eternal cycle of nature.