André Engel and his team has simply created a great, straight-forward production of Janacek´s opera The cunning little vixen. A couple of seasons ago, the same team created an elegant art deco production of Cardillac for the Paris Bastille Opera, and essentially the recipe for this Vixen is the same: Minimalistic, stylish sets and straight-forward story-telling.
This Cunning little Vixen takes place in and around a railway-station. This is where the Forester lives. The rails are a permanent feature of the sets, appearing in front of a summer-landshape of sunflowers, which turn to winter towards the end of the opera. The changing of seasons as well as the influence of human industry on nature. All the animals are dressed in colourful costumes, and a child-like fairy-tale like atmosphere pervades.
All the singers are convincing singer-actors in parts, which admittedly are not too difficult to cast: This is a conductors opera. To bring off the majestic interludes is what makes this work take off. If I had never heard The Cunning little Vixen before I would probably have thought the orchestra played transparent, but well with Dennis Russell Davies. Unfortunately, however, I have heard what this score sounds like when conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, such as in the Paris Châtelet Opera production (released on DVD in Hytner´s frankly unspectacular staging) 13 years ago: Sumptuously and densely compelling. It is hard not to wish for such a sound for this otherwise excellent production.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
The singers: 4-5 to all
André Engel´s production: 5
Dennis Russell Davies: 3
Overall impression: 4