Review: The Cunning Little Vixen, Wales Millennium Centre
Like a Gothic reimagining of The Wind in the Willows, this new production of Janácek's comic opera is a charming, unassuming and, for the most part, light-hearted look at the cycle of life – for humans and animals alike.
The second of the Welsh National Operas Free Spirits season, the somewhat disjoined tale follows the journey of a young vixen making her way through a bleak, harsh, but at times wonderful, world.
She gets captured by a forester while chasing with a frog; lectures and then slaughters a few chickens for their un-womanly obedience to men; gets married, and starts a family so large she loses count of her offspring; all before an unfortunate and untimely run-in with a shotgun-wielding poacher .
Sophie Bevan, who stars as Sharp-Ears, the vixen in the title, leads a predominantly youthful cast of woodland animals, who frolic through the seasons as the beautifully designed scenery changes from the soft hues of spring to a harsh blanket of winter snow.
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But as adorable as the animals are, it is the somewhat damaged humans who appropriately add the humanity to the production, with a fine performance from Jonathan Summers who excels as the wisened old alcoholic forester.
Accompanied by some sparkling music, The Cunning Little Vixen is a fresh, original opera, and another triumph from the WNO.