Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Tree of Life (Glyndebourne/Vixen)

Janáček, The Cunning Little Vixen (Jakub Hrůša cond. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne)
Quite literally I dream of the sort of perfect summer’s afternoon I enjoyed on Sunday (31st July) at Glyndebourne. The sun shone, but not too brightly; breezes gentle enough not to spoil picnicking, but cool enough to warrant a cloak at least at the end.  
The Cunning Little Vixen
This is the sort of production which suits so well the intimate scale of Glyndebourne. There is a full height tree with a winding path behind which, by dint of Paule Constable’s clever lighting, serves as path and burrow by turns. Animals appear in natty costumes. A Vixen (Elena Tsallagova) is captured by a Forester (Christopher Purves), and kept as a pet next to a dog. Then she is able to trick a host of hens and to escape. Our Vixen then evicts a badger (Alexander Vassiliev) from its home, found at the base of the tree. The Vixen then sets up home with a Fox and has a family. The Poacher is engaged to Terynka, also the object of the Forester’s amour. Harašta marries Terynka wearing the new fox fur muff. Nature is resurgent and beautiful and the forest returns to life.
In terms of singing this was beautiful. Purves made for a convincing Forester. The other singers were new to me, I believe. Tsallagova in the title role was really wonderful, in voice and movement. Her husband had similar qualities (Alžbĕta Poláčková) in an unusual sort of trouser role. Dinah Collin produced really clever costumes for them all. Harašta (Alexandre Duhamel), and Priest and Badger (both Vassiliev) and Schoolmaster and Mosquito (both Colin Judson) provided very able support.
So often it was small touches which made this so splendid: the frog eyes, the fox tails for example. Some children in audience were sporting fox tails, much to the jealousy of some of our party. Winter was summoned effectivley by dead sunflowers and a white sheet.
The production was stylized, apparently after a Czech comic, and very effective it was. The rain/snow effect for example was wonderful, projected comic-style. Two points in this production were deeply moving. The blossom was lowered on to the tree, accompanied by an off-stage chorus (cartoon-style blossom) was surprisingly beautiful. 
The Cunning Little Vixen
At the end, before the beautiful tree that has provided shelter to Badger, Vixen and Forrester, the full panoply of life is shown. Death, sorrow, and happiness come and go, but life continues. We returned outside for a spot of cheese and dribble of port in the dying hours of a perfect summer’s day. It seemed the right thing to do.

Creative team
Conductor Jakub Hrůša
Director Melly Still
Set Designer Tom Pye
Costume Designer Dinah Collin
Choreographer Mike Ashcroft
Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Cast includes
Forester Christopher Purves
Vixen Sharp Ears Elena Tsallagova
Fox Alžbĕta Poláčková
Harašta Alexandre Duhamel
Priest/Badger Alexander Vassiliev
Schoolmaster/Mosquito Colin Judson

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