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Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen
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Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen

11 Feb 2008 | Format: MP3

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Disc 2

Product details

  • Original Release Date: 4 Feb 2008
  • Release Date: 4 Feb 2008
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca Music Group Ltd.
  • Copyright: (C) 2007 Decca Music Group Limited
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:48:09
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001LK49WI
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,826 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter Grant on 20 Nov 2009
Format: Audio CD
For anyone who thinks opera is just too morbid 'Vixen' should change your mind. Janacek's interpretation of what started as a newspaper cartoon is magnificently life affirming and human (despite having mainly animal characters and what could be seen as a 'sad' ending). The Act 1 Pantomime has one of the most sublime melodies in all music and the whole work is triumphently optimistic. Mackerras is perhaps the greatest interpreter of Janacek's work and you get the orchestral suite as well!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Reprint of a classic recording 20 Oct 2008
By Jeffrey G. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a reprint of a studio performance recorded in Vienna in 1981 and originally transferred to CD in 1990. A full libretto and synopsis is still included in the set. The music remains as fresh as the day it was written, and the passionate, vibrant, committed performance has held up over a full seven years of listenings. The musical samples available in the other listing for the CD will apply to this lower-priced reprint as well. The sound is not at all bad, with rich strings and exotic-sounding woodwinds popping out against the impeccable diction and energy of the singers.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Totally charming Janacek opera for the young at heart 12 Feb 2010
By Ellie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I am not an academic or professional musician so this is just the review of someone who has loved classical music since childhood. How I managed to go a lifetime without hearing this, I don't know. But I was immediately charmed by this Czech opera expertly sung and with a top orchestra.

The leitmotif is simple but unforgetable. Janacek based this amazing work on a comic strip story, no less. Wrote his own libretto and utterly charming music about a vixen and her kits giving a comeuppance to the gamekeeper. Won't give the ending away, but she wins in the end.

The singing is superb. This is not anything like a German or Italian opera. Nor is it atonal. It is highly creative and very satisfying to listen to repeatedly. You'll want to put this on your iPod, it's that enjoyable.

Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Mackerras and Popp give Vixen a Viennese flavor 21 April 2013
By marcabru - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Janacek often looked to unlikely sources for his operas but Cunning Little Vixen is probably the oddest. I can just picture Janacek peddling the concept:

"Hello yes, you're Leos Janacek? Nice to talk with you again. Yes you had a nice hit with your opera Jenufa. Working on another one? Great what is it? Cunning Vixen? Wow sounds great. I can think of two or three vampy sopranos for... a female fox. Well a vixen is a ... oh the vixen is a fox who sings ..OK Uh what's the story? A vixen is captured by a game warden and raised as a pet umm, it attacks the hens and escapes and meets a male fox and uh elopes ok. Uh what are the other singing parts? The male fox is another soprano, ok and a school teacher and tavern keeper and barmaid, uh uh and a grasshopper and a Frog?? Tell you what Leos. I'll ask around and get back to you on this, yes we'll call you, sure."

Just warning you, but don't worry about it because this is a magic score, Janacek makes it charming but also tough and unsentimental. Only the Forester manages to retain some glimmer of sympathy and wonder at life, the rest of the people are either coarse or embittered. The animals at least are comfortable with themselves.

There have been a number of competitive recordings of this opera. The first was in the late 50s conducted by Neumann and the Prague National Orchestra with Hana Böhmová as the Vixen and Rudolf Asmus (Forester). The second from 1970 was conducted by Gregor also with the Prague National. Helena Tattermuschova is the Vixen. In 1981 two issues came out, one again from Neumann this time with the Czech Philharmonic. The other was by Mackerras and the Vienna Philharmonic with the estimable Lucia Popp as the Vixen.

The Mackerras recording with the Vienna Philaharmonic came out within a year of the second Neumann. This is a performance in the central European tradition less Czech and more Viennese gemutlich, despite Czech singers filling many of the roles. Popp is a sumptuous voice and inhabits the character well without being idiomatic. The orchestral performance is smooth and the Forester Dalibor Jedlicka turns in a gentle but also nicely sung interpretation. I find the Mackerras interpretation better at the opening and closing scenes than in the middle. Mackerras was outstanding with Katya Kabanova and The Makropoulos Affair but those operas have a more typical cast and plot for high opera with a star soprano turn.The recording is early digital which Decca was not that good with. Fortunately its not harsh but everything is sanded down and rather opaque sounding. Four stars for performance and 3.5 for the recording.

The performance with Gregor is quite charming and idiomatic with a very characterful Vixen. However, the recording in some ways is the worst of these 4 recordings, very thin and veiled with a rather harsh treble. The recording really negates the impact that this effort would have had with even an average recording. The orchestral playing is OK but really not as sprightly as the earlier Neumann performance For those who can somehow listen through this, the recording can be recommended. Four stars for performance and 2 stars for recording so let's say 3.5 stars.

The first recording by Vaclav Neuman was with the Prague National Orchestra in 1958 issued only in mono. The sound is quite clear though for the voices. They are recorded rather closely but there is very little distortion caused by that so the sound is very immediate. The orchestra is also clear if a bit thin sounding behind the singers. Neumann conducts with fine pacing and rhythmic sensitivity. Bohmova as the Vixen is exceptionally characterful, but more on the foxy aggressive side than the charming frolicsome side. However, the role can be interpreted successfully that way since the Vixen is actually charming in the libretto only when she meets her mate in the forest. Nevertheless it is a compelling performance. The sensitivity and phrasing of Asmus in the Forester role is also praiseworthy. This is the only true 5 star performance so it is unfortunate that it was not recorded in stereo.

The second recording from Neumann was over 20 years later with the Czech Philharmonic. The orchestral playing is smoother albeit blander than the earlier performance and of course the good stereo recording opens up the sound nicely. Magdalena Hajossyova as the Vixen is good but is blander as well which fits the general approach taken here. The Forester Novak is probably the most involving of the major singers. While an idiomatic performance, the second Neumann is probably the least inspired of the 3 Czech performances described here but with by far the most natural sound. Figures.3 stars for the performance and 4 stars for the recording.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Comparison of "Cunning Little Vixen" done by Rattle and Mackerras 7 Feb 2013
By jt52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Comparing the fine recordings of Leos Janacek's 1924 opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" made by Simon Rattle and Charles Mackerras has been a rewarding experience and one that highlighted for me the differences between a very good interpretation and a great one.

I started by listening to Simon Rattle's 1990 EMI recording of "Vixen" sung in English. This is a very successful recording headlined by British coloratura Lillian Watson as the Vixen and Thomas Allen as the forest groundkeeper. Rattle has a way with eastern European music and this CD set bears it out, taking a sunnier lighter approach to the opera's story of foxes and the cycle of life. The orchestral playing is musical and the instrumental balances perfectly judged. Watson is good as the title character and Allen, a terrific singer, is great as is the recorded sound. So this is a successful interpretation. Some listeners may balk that the text has been translated from Czech to English but I found it perfectly acceptable.

My reaction to "Vixen" - which I saw live a long time ago but was re-acquainting myself with through recordings -- was that it was a sporadically beautiful and interesting opera with a very good first act, and a less interesting latter portion.

I then moved on to the classic 1981 recording by Charles Mackerras and the Vienna Philharmonic, part of these musicians' series of Janacek opera recordings. What had been an attractive opera under Rattle acquired a new emotionality and intensity under Mackerras. The tone painting of the woodland scenes became full of tension; the atmosphere thickened. To quote a certain TV chef, everything was kicked "up a notch." My reaction to "Vixen" - which I saw live a long time ago but was re-acquainting myself with through recordings -- is that it was a sporadically beautiful and interesting opera with a very good first act, and a less interesting latter portion. While I continue to think of "Vixen" as an uneven opera, the Mackerras brought home the full glory of Janacek's best moments. This is simply a great interpretation and a great recording.

Some details: Lucia Popp is the Vixen and of course is excellent. Czech tenor Dalibor Jedlicka, the groundkeeper, has a beautiful voice and sings well, too. The recorded sound is wonderful (I listened to the remastered version).

Because Vixen is just about 1 ½ hours in length, both recordings have additional music. Mackerras has the Vixen suites while Rattle's has an early 1980s recording done with the Philharmonia Orchestra of Janacek's moody and capitivating Slavic tone poem "Taras Bulba". Rattle's interpretation is very good, although I continue to think that Mackerras' recording done with Vienna Philharmonic is truly special and remains my recording of choice. I also think that the interesting music in "Vixen" is contained in the orchestral sections. That said, I found the two Vixen suites included in the Mackerras CDs to have an unsatisfying episodic character that was less than the sum of its parts. Listen to the opera if you want the full effect.

So both of these recordings are entirely worthy of 5 stars but the Mackerras is an exceptional one that makes the most of the "Cunning Little Vixen". Both releases are recommended.
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