Plays again on Saturday 29 June
“People will act in it as well as speak, but like animals,” said Czech composer, Leoš Janáček of his opera The Cunning Little Vixen.
Sung in Czech, the opera comes to the Barbican Centre this June, played by the faultless London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and deftly pieced together by the Barbican veteran, director Peter Sellars.
In this half-staged, abridged production, the animals Janáček promised are projected onto a large screen hanging high above the dextrous fingers of the LSO musicians. Black-clad singers deliver the dramatic action out front, augmented by these nature-documentary-like visuals at their rear: a blinking frog here; two mating dragonflies there. The effect is pleasantly disorientating; as one bathes in the mellifluence of Janáček’s composition, singers transmogrify from mosquito, to frog, to badger, to beast.
Many of Leoš Janáček’s works feature vividly wrought female characters, a persistent theme attributed to the composer’s adoration of Kamila Stösslová, a woman he met in 1917, who was otherwise spoken for.
The Cunning Little Vixen is no exception, featuring as its heroine the titular Vixen, embodied in this production by the dynamic soprano, Lucy Crowe. Vixen is a chameleonic, wily sort who charms her way past obstacles presented to her by a panoply of anthropomorphic animals, capably played here by an excellent cast of singers and the multitudinous London Symphony Chorus.
The Cunning Little Vixen plays again at the Barbican on Saturday 29 June
Silk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS
020 7638 4141