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The Cunning Little Vixen Import

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, February 4, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Cunning Little Vixen
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Product Details

  • Composer: LEOS JANACEK, CHARLES MACKERRAS, VIENNA PHIL ORCH
  • Audio CD (February 4, 2008)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Decca Import
  • ASIN: B000YCLR6A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,204 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey G. Jones on October 20, 2008
Format: Audio CD
This is a reprint of a studio performance recorded in Vienna in 1981 and originally transferred to CD in 1990. A full libretto and synopsis is still included in the set. The music remains as fresh as the day it was written, and the passionate, vibrant, committed performance has held up over a full seven years of listenings. The musical samples available in the other listing for the CD will apply to this lower-priced reprint as well. The sound is not at all bad, with rich strings and exotic-sounding woodwinds popping out against the impeccable diction and energy of the singers.
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Format: Audio CD
Janacek often looked to unlikely sources for his operas but Cunning Little Vixen is probably the oddest. I can just picture Janacek peddling the concept:

"Hello yes, you're Leos Janacek? Nice to talk with you again. Yes you had a nice hit with your opera Jenufa. Working on another one? Great what is it? Cunning Vixen? Wow sounds great. I can think of two or three vampy sopranos for... a female fox. Well a vixen is a ... oh the vixen is a fox who sings ..OK Uh what's the story? A vixen is captured by a game warden and raised as a pet umm, it attacks the hens and escapes and meets a male fox and uh elopes ok. Uh what are the other singing parts? The male fox is another soprano, ok and a school teacher and tavern keeper and barmaid, uh uh and a grasshopper and a Frog?? Tell you what Leos. I'll ask around and get back to you on this, yes we'll call you, sure."

Just warning you, but don't worry about it because this is a magic score, Janacek makes it charming but also tough and unsentimental. Only the Forester manages to retain some glimmer of sympathy and wonder at life, the rest of the people are either coarse or embittered. The animals at least are comfortable with themselves.

There have been a number of competitive recordings of this opera. The first was in the late 50s conducted by Neumann and the Prague National Orchestra with Hana Böhmová as the Vixen and Rudolf Asmus (Forester). The second from 1970 was conducted by Gregor also with the Prague National. Helena Tattermuschova is the Vixen. In 1981 two issues came out, one again from Neumann this time with the Czech Philharmonic. The other was by Mackerras and the Vienna Philharmonic with the estimable Lucia Popp as the Vixen.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Comparing the fine recordings of Leos Janacek's 1924 opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" made by Simon Rattle and Charles Mackerras has been a rewarding experience and one that highlighted for me the differences between a very good interpretation and a great one.

I started by listening to Simon Rattle's 1990 EMI recording of "Vixen" sung in English. This is a very successful recording headlined by British coloratura Lillian Watson as the Vixen and Thomas Allen as the forest groundkeeper. Rattle has a way with eastern European music and this CD set bears it out, taking a sunnier lighter approach to the opera's story of foxes and the cycle of life. The orchestral playing is musical and the instrumental balances perfectly judged. Watson is good as the title character and Allen, a terrific singer, is great as is the recorded sound. So this is a successful interpretation. Some listeners may balk that the text has been translated from Czech to English but I found it perfectly acceptable.

My reaction to "Vixen" - which I saw live a long time ago but was re-acquainting myself with through recordings -- was that it was a sporadically beautiful and interesting opera with a very good first act, and a less interesting latter portion.

I then moved on to the classic 1981 recording by Charles Mackerras and the Vienna Philharmonic, part of these musicians' series of Janacek opera recordings. What had been an attractive opera under Rattle acquired a new emotionality and intensity under Mackerras. The tone painting of the woodland scenes became full of tension; the atmosphere thickened. To quote a certain TV chef, everything was kicked "up a notch.
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