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A radiant efficiency from Caroline Taylor because the Vixen lifts HGO’s account of Janacek’s The Crafty Little Vixen

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Caroline Taylor - HGO (Photo Laurent Compagnon)
Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen – Caroline Taylor – HGO (Photograph Laurent Compagnon)

Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen; Caroline Taylor, Milette Gillow, Edward Kim, Martins Smaukstelis, Owain Gwynfryn, Conall O’Neill, director Eleanor Burke, conductor Lada Valesova; HGO at Jacksons Lane Theatre
Reviewed 6 November 2022 (★★★★)

A radiant efficiency within the title function actually lifts this engagingly imaginative chamber model of Janacek’s opera

HGO returned to Jacksons Lane Theatre for a run of eight performances (double solid) of Janacek’s The Crafty Little Vixen. The manufacturing is directed by Eleanor Burke, performed by Lada Valesova and designed by Charlotte Henery. We caught the efficiency on Sunday 6 November 2022 which featured Caroline Taylor because the Vixen, Milette Gillow because the Fox, Edward Kim because the Forester, Martins Smaukstelis because the Schoolmaster/Mosquito, Owain Gwynfryn as Harasta, Conall O’Neill because the Badger/Priest, Wendy Silvester as Forester’s spouse/Owl, Alexandria Wreggelsworth as Rooster and Jennifer Statham as Lapak. The solid additionally included Philip Hayes, Sian Roberts, Caroline Blaire Rebecca Milford, Elizabeth Rachel Thomson, and Angharad Davies.

The work was carried out in an orchestral discount for 13 gamers with the orchestra to the aspect of the stage. Charlotte Henery’s set was a easy platform lined with inexperienced carpet and a inexperienced backdrop, however the platform featured trapdoors which had been a lot used within the manufacturing, for the Badger’s den and far else apart from. Costumes had been color coded in line with the animal, with face make-up too, although the principle emphasis was on the singers’ bodily actions which evoked the totally different animals. The manufacturing was easy but made very efficient use of the house accessible and the uncluttered look suited the work.

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Owain Gwynfryn, Edward Kim- HGO (Photo Laurent Compagnon)
Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen – Owain Gwynfryn, Edward Kim
HGO (Photograph Laurent Compagnon)

Janacek’s opera is in regards to the interplay and distinction between the pure world and the human one. The composer encourages this by doubling the singers, having the people and animals performed by the identical folks. This will increase the query of fairly how human the animals must be, however right here Burke ensured that her animal troupe was clearly differentiated from the people within the village. And this advantages Janacek’s storytelling the place he contrasts the pure cycle of issues within the forest and the animals’ acceptance, with the collective melancholy of the people. Solely Harasta, the poacher, appears to be joyful along with his lot. Burke, nevertheless, added an additional layer to this, fairly complicating issues. 

On the opening we noticed the Forester (Edward Kim) and his daughter enjoying, he falls asleep, she runs off and is rarely discovered once more. The villagers mourn her and collect flowers as a memorial to her on the nook of the stage. This memorial stays all through the piece and the villagers’ mourning of the lady is a perpetual counterpoint to Janacek’s motion. The younger lady enjoying the daughter additionally performed the younger vixen within the opening scene, thus we are supposed to suggest some form of identification. This fixed sense of reminiscence and mourning jarred considerably with Janacek’s music celebrating the lifetime of the forest. The stunning second of the Vixen’s dream was changed by extra villagers mourning, however maybe probably the most tonally misjudged second was throughout the Vixen and Fox’s wedding ceremony when the animals’ celebration was paired with the mourning remembrance of the villagers. And on the finish, we weren’t given the Forester at one with the forest, however him and his spouse coming to phrases with their loss.

For those who may settle for this important dramaturgical change, a giant if, then there was tons to take pleasure in.

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Caroline Taylor, Conall O'Neill - HGO (Photo Laurent Compagnon)
Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen – Caroline Taylor, Conall O’Neill – HGO (Photograph Laurent Compagnon)

For me, the efficiency was held collectively by the radiant and imaginative Vixen of Caroline Taylor. Bodily she embodied the animal superbly and by no means wavered in her physicality. Her Vixen was splendidly feisty but touching. The early moments confirmed her softer aspect, however at all times Taylor’s Vixen had a robust aspect and the preliminary scene with Milette Gillow’s Fox was very spiky certainly. This was a courtship the place the Vixen appeared to have the strongest character. Taylor held our consideration all through in a splendidly participating manner, and musically she was lyrically satisfying too, rising with ease over the diminished orchestra.

Edward Kim made a reticent, but musically satisfying Forester. Kim has a beautiful resonant baritone and sounded completely comfortable within the function, but dramatically his efficiency appeared to place the Forester at one take away, and I needed him to be a bit extra demonstrative, however Kim was touching in his remaining aria.

Because the Fox, Milette Gillow was maybe softer-grained than standard and fairly touching. Martins Smauksktelis was a tragic but elegant Schoolmaster with Conall O’Neill because the fairly morose Priest (together with a splendidly raffish Badger). Owain Gwynfryn displayed a beautiful freedom of voice and manner as Harasta the poacher, the one human within the opera actually joyful and cozy along with his lot. Philip Hayes was participating within the small function of the Innkeeper, and Wendy Silvester had way more to do than standard because the Forester’s spouse, and Silvester emoted bravely.

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Vixen, Rooster & Hens - HGO (Photo Laurent Compagnon)
Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen – Vixen, Rooster & Hens – HGO (Photograph Laurent Compagnon)

The smaller roles had been all pleasant. Alexandria Wreggelsworth was a splendidly strutting Rooster, with Sian Roberts, Caroline Blair, Rebecca Milford and Angharad Davies because the hilarious hens. These singers, together with Elizabeth Rachel Thomson did positive obligation as quite a lot of characters, making a sequence of vivid moments. Jennifer Statham was appropriate mournful (and randy) because the canine Lapak. The solid was accomplished by a gaggle of 12 youngsters who popped up in all kinds of roles and gave the impression to be having a good time.

The opera was sung in Czech. Given the household viewers, I did ponder whether English may need been higher, however there was no doubting the work all of the singers had put in on the language with the principals making actual expressive use of the language. The orchestral discount labored surprisingly nicely. While we felt the dearth of weight within the strings (right here simply 5 gamers), what we gained was readability and lightness of texture which confirmed off the person enjoying nicely with, specifically, some pretty wind solos.

Lada Valesova confirmed actual love and understanding of the work. In a busy manufacturing with the conductor far to at least one aspect, Valesova did her traffic-policeman duties nicely but additionally drew out a positive efficiency from all involved.

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - HGO (Photo Laurent Compagnon)
Janacek: The Crafty Little Vixen – HGO (Photograph Laurent Compagnon)

This was a large-scale, advanced operation. The opera requires fairly a big solid and with the double casting that meant that rehearsals should have been fairly an operation. None of this was felt within the efficiency, which had an attractive ease and freedom to it.

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