15 November 2014 | TheLittleSongbird
A fine example of New York City Opera in their prime
The Cunning Little Vixen most likely is Janacek's most accessible opera and his masterpiece also. Its story is both charming and tragic and the music while angular in places has a beautiful Moravian folksy flavour to it. This production is marvellous(the 1995 production and the animated film are must sees too), it's one of the best New York City Opera have ever done but is sadly undervalued. If there is a production of Cunning Little Vixen that deserves a revival it's this one but due to the production values being destroyed in a fire(apparently) that's unlikely to happen. It does have a dark, sometimes cruel and tragic interpretation(compared to the 1995 production) but that's not inappropriate at all, the story does have a tragic undertone to it. And it doesn't feel over-emphasised too much, there is a light-hearted quality in some scenes like in the end of Act 1 with the hens and rooster(sure the act ends fairly brutally but the staging of the rest of the scene is hilarious). It's also in English, personally am aware that there are people who don't like operas that are not written in English originally being performed in English, but it works actually with Cunning Little Vixen(Hansel and Gretel and Magic Flute too), making the production accessible and easy to understand to younger audiences.
The production has wonderful production values with dynamic if occasionally too dark lighting and lovely colourful sets, the forest setting actually looking like a forest. Even better are the intricate costumes for the animals, nobody looks embarrassed or uncomfortable in them(I'd probably be a little reserved being one of the hens though), and the charming storybook picture designs that accompany the scene changes. The staging is always coherent(which was very important to Janacek) and cleverly done, particularly of note are the prologue which is interesting symmetrical with the Vixen's own death later on, the end of Act 1 which did raise a good laugh due to the acting of the Rooster mainly and the Vixen's movingly done death scene. The choreography for the Grasshopper dance was good too. There's nothing to complain about musically either, the conducting is controlled but lively, never losing pulse while being sympathetic towards the singers and the orchestra play the difficult score with beauty and depth, not showing any signs of feeling taxed, that it's paced comfortably for them helps. Of the performances, the best come from Gianna Rolandi as a very endearing and deeply felt Vixen and Richard Cross as a richly-sung and sympathetic Bartos the Forrester. Lisbeth Lloyd also delights as a hilarious Rooster.
All in all, a marvellous production that deserves a DVD release with sharper picture quality than that on Youtube. If you want to see New York City Opera in their prime, it is highly recommend that you see this. 10/10 Bethany Cox