Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) is one of the four pillars on which Czech opera rests, the other three being Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana and Bohuslav Martinů. Indeed, he is considered as one of the most original composers of opera internationally. But the language barrier has proved to be the main obstacle in making these works more popular with Western audiences. To his credit, Janáček counts among the first opera composers who used prose for libretti, not verse. He even wrote his own libretti for his last three operas.
The Cunning Little Vixen is the seventh of the composer's nine works in the genre, and it contains some of his most daring music. The story concerns humans and animals, the latter representing human actions that intertwine with the former's against a background of life's cycle.
Listen — Janáček: Jednání I (The Cunning Little Vixen, Act I)
(CD 1 track 1, 0:02-0:59) © 2018-2019 Oehms Classics :
Apart from The Excursions of Mr Brouček', this is Janáček's lightest opera, and despite the titular vixen's death at the end of the opera, it stands in contrast to the often brutally serious nature of other works such as Jenufa and Katya Kabanova.
In Little Vixen the composer departed from the more conventional style of previous and subsequent stage-works in favour of a more folk-style language, and wove into its fabric some of his most experimental opera concepts such as mime, ballet and orchestral interludes.
Listen — Janáček: Jednání III (The Cunning Little Vixen, Act III)
(CD 2 track 1, 0:04-0:39) © 2018-2019 Oehms Classics :
Premiered on 6 November 1924 at the National Theatre in Brno, the opera was a moderate success and so it remains to this day. Recording-wise, Vixen has not had much luck. Indeed this live recording is only the fourth venture in its history, although the orchestral suite has fared much better in the concert hall. This performance from Frankfurt has everything going for it: splendid singing, virtuoso playing and an overwhelming sense of drama that keeps the story moving at an inexhorable pace towards the vixen's death.
Listen — Janáček: Běži liška k Táboru (The Cunning Little Vixen, Act III)
(CD 2 track 3, 0:00-0:56) © 2018-2019 Oehms Classics :
A long-awaited addition to the Janáček discography in excellent sound quality and informative notes that should arouse one's curiosity for a fresh appraisal of a true Czech operatic masterpiece.
Copyright © 14 April 2019