The Cunning Little Vixen – reviews of Janacek opera

Jun 25, 2014

Garsington Opera lures critics with 'superb' production in evocative country-house setting

Clive Barda

What you need to know
A new production of Leos Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen has opened at Garsington Opera, at Wormsley, Buckinghamshire. Daniel Slater directs Czech composer Janacek's 1924 comic opera, which was inspired by a comic strip and incorporates Moravian folk music.

It tells the story of a forester who takes a wild vixen cub home as a pet. But when the cub grows into an adult vixen, he is forced to reflect upon unrequited love and the cycle of life.

Stars Claire Booth as the Vixen and Grant Doyle as the Forester. Runs until 12 July.

What the critics like The rolling hills of the Getty estate at Wormsley make an ideal evocative backdrop for Janacek's life-and-death operatic tale, says Richard Fairman in the Financial Times. Daniel Slater's production "treads a fine line between comedy and touching drama", with a high-quality cast including a marvellously vital Booth as Vixen.

Leading a fabulous cast, Booth "exceeds even the high expectations" as a knockout Vixen, says Guy Dammann in The Guardian. This is a "superb" rendering of Janacek's opera, blurring the tragicomic lines between the animal and human characters, while remaining totally alive to the nervous, tumbling score.

Amid the beautiful, lantern-lit sweep of landscape, "this is country-house opera done at a very high level indeed", says David Nice on the Arts Desk. Slater has shed animal cutesiness in favour of the human predicament and Booth is a riveting revelation in the title role.

What they don't like The leads are magnificent but this Czech opera "cries out for translation", says Michael Church in The Independent. At times it moves so fast that one's gaze is firmly fixed on the surtitles, while the dance routines further diffuse the dramatic focus.

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