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  • The Cunning Little Vixen [Blu-ray] [Import]
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The Cunning Little Vixen [Blu-ray] [Import]

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Cute? Yes, That's Exactly What's Wrong With It! Feb. 27 2010
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's so darned cute it's spoiled! Can an opera that has animals as singing characters, based on a cartoon, be TOO cute? You betcha it can! Especially when the staging is shallow and static, the costumes look like Halloween get-ups, and the humans are all portrayed as witless clowns.

The Cunning Little Vixen is a symphonic poem shaped as an opera, so let's start with the Orchestra of the Opera National de Paris, conducted by Dennis R Davies. They're wimpy! They play the whole score as colorful sound effects. They nver catch the sweeping grandeur of Janacek's paean to nature. They don't get it. Besides, the orchestra and chorus are never musically integrated and acoustically balanced. If this were a CD, one would throw it away.

Next, the wild animals. The decision to use children - cute little amateurs at that - instead of dancers is a disaster. The children stand or stumble around the shallow stage without any sense of the vivacity of their animal beings, as expressed in the musical score. They look like they're presenting a school pageant. A few of them are required to sing, but don't have the voices to impinge their roles on the orchestral score. The close-ups of their charming little faces are distracting and nothing more.

Then, the domestic animals. Costumes and blocking are both just for the laughs, though I didn't hear any laughs among the small group of friends who watched this DVD with me. The chickens were embarrassingly stodgy in movement. The old dog, an important singing role, had no wistful sadness about him. No yearning to be wild. Director Andre Engel just didn't get it!

Worst of all, the Forester, the central role. Here he isn't a forester at all, but some kind of besotted oaf of a railroad stationmaster. He needs to be a man of some vigor and bravado, not a silly wuss! The whole opera builds toward his final scene, his apotheosis as it were, or rather his rebirth as Man in Nature. The Forester's last "aria" has to be thrilling, not sappy. This is an opera about revivification and regeneration, about springtime and lust for life! The Forester, despite his boozing and his marital strife, LOVES LIFE, as incarnated in the Vixen. One could take Janacek as projecting a kind of pantheism in his opera, but the message I get from it is that Life and Nature are one and the same, and humans fall into foolish futility when they lapse out of that cycle of integration. Despite its cartoon charm and playfulness, The Cunning Little Vixen is an opera that intends to be profound. This production, however, does everything possible to distract us from its meaning.

The only highlight here is the vivacious performance by Elena Tsallagova in the role of the Vixen. Her stage presence is as saucy and willful as it should be, and her voice is the only one of the whole cast that seems to hold its own in the symphonic context of the score. Give her a decent staging and a Forester with some masculine energy, and I'll bet sparks would fly.

I love this opera. It's among my favorites of the whole 20th C, and before this DVD, I could hardly imagine it failing. On the other hand, it seems to be emerging from neglect and vying for a place in the standard repertoire of opera companies both in Europe and the USA. There's an older DVD production of it, from the Theâtre du Chatelet, conducted by Charles Mackerras, which is far superior to this one.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
What a delight! Feb. 16 2010
By John Chandler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This is never an easy opera to present on video as the mixture of fable and off beat situations provides many challenges to the producer. This is a delightful production with outstanding picture and sound quality. The sets and costumes are very original with a magical vixen and the rest of the cast are really just as good. I found it significantly better than the earlier release under Sir Charles Mackerras and can highly recommend it. An absolute delight!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Wide sound stage, but orchestra overpowers the voices June 28 2013
By R. Kreutzer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I have over 150 classical DVD/BRs that I watch on a 106" screen and listen through a 7.1 loudspeaker setup where the front speakers are about 9' 6" apart and the surround speakers are on my sides. The room has sound treatments so I hear what's on the disc, not distorting reflections from the walls. My reviews concentrate on the surround audio, as you can pretty much judge the video and stereo for yourself on youtube and similar sites.

Picture is fine. Colorful costumes and good lighting. The start menu does not allow you to chose the audio track and subtitles, Play starts in stereo without subtitles. A minor inconvenience, but the Top Menu should let me chose the sound track and the subtitles.

Sound stage for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is very wide, about 160 degrees from surround to surround speaker. Not only the orchestra is laid out like that, even the voices move from surround to surround. When the forester sings from the left corner of the stage without being in view yet, sound is out of the left surround. This is the only recording I know that goes to this extreme. Most recordings that have the voices move at all put the stage corner half way between the front corner speaker and the surround.
It certainly gives you the feeling of sitting in the front row, almost in the position of the conductor.
But then the singing starts and you realize that the voices are too soft, relative to the orchestra. Although I believe to see signs of a body microphone under the foxy wig of the vixen, the sound pretty much represents a stage mic only recording. Much of the action is at the back of the stage, which explains the softness. It probably sounded like this for the audience, too, so you could call it "realistic", but it should sound better on a surround track with body mics used properly.
I would give it 5 stars for the surround but only 2 for the voice recording.

Then I switched to the stereo track to hear how that was done and it turns out to be a better mix. Orchestra and voices are in better balance and you can hear the singers, but now of course the sound stage is only between your two front corner speakers. Overall, it sounds like as if you sit somewhere around row 12. It seems the audio engineer used the body mics here. Sound recording and mix is Yves Baudry, Editing Jean-Baptiste Etchepareborde plus another half a dozen names involved.

If you listen to it in stereo, it's o. k. As a surround recording, it's a poor mix and I can't recommend it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An excellent new production of this accessible Janacek opera July 29 2012
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
Janacek's Cunning little Vixen is a very good place to start appreciating Janacek's operas as it is essentially much more accessible than some of his other works which deal with particularly difficult human situations. This opera is firmly based on the woodland animal world surrounding the life of a vixen and her interaction with the woodsman who initially captures her and subsequently tries to keep her as a pet. She escapes.

The story follows the group of animals and the small group of humans as they age. The human group interact with each other and also with the woodland world. The animals do the same in reverse. Both groups inevitably clash with each other but continue to behave in their own particular ways. Basically Janacek is writing an opera showing how life continually moves on and recycles.

Janacek first came across this story as a novella `Adventures of Vixen Sharp-Ears' which was published in 51 parts in a literary journal before being turned into book form. It is still in print. He immediately wanted to write the opera despite advice to the contrary. He stated that for years he had listened to the animals, memorising their speech. He declared "I am at home with them." He later confided that this score was the favourite of all his operas.

All this can all be enjoyed at a fairly superficial level as a simple tale. It can also be seen as rather moralistic which may well be what inspired Janacek to write it bearing in mind his close identification with the language of the animals.

This production is perfectly conceived incorporating quite a large cast of acting/singing children who take on most of the woodland animal parts plus adults who take on the human roles plus the vixen and fox roles. The costumes are beautifully designed to fit in with this woodland world, as indeed is the staging - a constant treat for the eyes. All the sung roles are carried out with complete understanding of the parallel but conflicting worlds of the animal and human situation and also within those separate worlds. The conflicting elements of fantasy and reality are wonderfully realised. I am sure that Janacek would have been delighted with the result.

The recording is outstanding giving wonderfully crisp imaging and sympathetic camera work combined with equally clear and well-balanced DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound as well as stereo. There is also an interesting bonus film providing `An encounter backstage at the Paris Opera'. I would suggest that this delightful opera is well-worth getting to know and that this recording is worth every one of the full 5 stars.

Further note on alternatives
There is an excellent DVD only version with Mackerras conducting an outstanding cast and production from 1995 which might be of alternative interest. In many ways, it is the version I prefer to watch, excellent though this one is. My wife feels the same way too!


Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

The Cunning Little Vixen certainly does deal with difficult human situations. More than that, not only do the humans in the opera have difficulty relating to each other, they also have difficulty in relating to the animals who, in their turn have difficulty relating both with the humans and among themselves. (U.K. review)

Excellent Review, Ian!
Somehow I hadn't come across it before, so please let me know whenever you do any new ones... (U.K. review)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
OMG...WOW March 28 2011
By Satish Kamath - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
OMG OMG = (Oh My God)

At the end of it, I was the person who felt like tucking my tail between my legs....

I have been a lover of Opera for the last 40 years. I am sad and happy that I did not take a Janacek Opera as seriously as I should have. Sad that I am about to cut such a sorry figure here, and Happy that I have come across a work that has appealed to me in the first ever hearing... an experience I have rarely had.


Having said that, I would like to confess that I had given Janacek the short shrift almost all my life of Operas composed by him. I thought I had it all... Wagner.. Humperdink... Debussy... Berg.. name them all... but had neglected listening to Janacek. I did today... and the effect was more than just magical.
I do not remember in the last 40 years wherein a work, whether opera, ballet, symphony, chamber or anything else having had an INSTANT appeal as I have had today with this one. I cannot review it, as I have not yet heard another recording of this one... I can only comment on the effect it had on me.

For those who have never heard this earlier, ... 10 stars... buy it, especially if you dig 20th century works. I am one of those who has listened and seen it for the first time. I can bet my last penny that most lovers of serious music have never experienced this one.

The music is just gorgeous. That swings it to start with. The performance of it comes through like velvet. The staging is, just fabulous, and the recording in hi-def is as expected of it.

Unlike my other reviews, this does not qualify... for the simple reason that I have not had the opportunity of seeing another production (except on You Tube) that too, today. I intend buying DVDs of this production that have come out earlier to get a different perspective of the work.

All I can say is, for those who have been Idiots like me, who have not bothered to hear, listen and see it on either stage or on video, please give it a chance, and I will assure you, THOU SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.

BUY IT. To those who are either Czeck and familiar with the work or those familiar with it, feel free to let me know about this work and performances that are good and available on the Video...