Janáček, The Cunning Little Vixen, E. Tsallagova, Opéra national de Paris, D. R. Davies
(released on April 28, 2009)
Medici Arts 3078388
The appeal of this version is that it is more for adults than children, although the opera has plenty of appeal for all ages. Here the bright colors of the sets (designed by Nicky Rieti) and whimsical costumes of the animals and insects (designed by Élizabeth Neumuller) are contrasted by the drabness of the human, industrial world. The staging also plays up the parallel between the Forester's attachment to the young fox he catches -- played here by the attractive young Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova, a member of the Atelier Lyrique, the Opéra national de Paris's young artist program -- and the fantasy desire of all the male characters for the village vixen, Terynka. The cast sings and acts exceptionally well, especially Tsallagova's Vixen and mezzo-soprano Hannah Esther Minutillo, who is costumed as a dead ringer for Eric Stoltz's character in Pulp Fiction.
Jukka Rasilainen's Forester is a man at the edge of craziness, drinking with his bachelor friends (David Kuebler's school master and Roland Bracht's parson) and found sitting in the snow, with a wreath of flowers on his head, looking for the vixen who got away. Members of two children's choruses -- the Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine and the company's own Choeur d'enfants -- sing beautifully and provide considerable charm as mosquitos, frogs, flies, and later the foxes' many children (choreography by Françoise Grès). The whimsical image of a caterpillar flying a kite is among the production's most memorable parts. The only drawback is the uninspired conducting of Dennis Russell Davies, who is no Charles Mackerras when it comes to Janáček. Happily, this production returns to the Bastille stage in the summer of 2010, with a mostly different cast and conductor Michael Schønwandt, just in time for my next visit.