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Janacek: Cunning Little Vixen / Rasilainen, Tsallagova [blu-ray]

Janacek / Tsallagova / Rasilainen / Lagrange
Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 3078384  
Composer:  Leos Janácek
Performer:  Paul GayRoland BrachtElena TsallagovaHannah Esther Minutillo,   ... 
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Maitrise Children's ChoirParis National Opera ChorusParis National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

*** This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD or HD DVD players. ***

Leoš Janá?ek

The Forester – Jukka Rasilainen
His Wife / The Owl – Michèle Lagrange
The Schoolmaster – David Kuebler
The Parson – Roland Bracht
Harasta – Paul Gay
The Vixen – Elena Tsallagova
The Fox – Hannah Esther Minutillo

Paris Maitrise Children's Choir
Paris National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

André Engel, stage director

Recorded live at the Opera Bastille, Paris, November 2008

Read more Bonus:
- An encounter backstage at the Paris Opera with Gerard Mortier, André Engel and Elena Tsallagova

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 101 mins (opera) + 20 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

R E V I E W:


JANÁ?EK The Cunning Little Vixen & Dennis Russell Davies, cond; Elena Tsallagova ( Vixen ); Jukka Rasilainen ( Forester ); Michèle Lagrange ( His Wife/Owl ); Hannah Esther Minutillo ( Fox ); David Kuebler ( Schoolmaster ); Roland Bracht ( Parson ); Paul Gay ( Harašta ); Paris Natl Op O & Ch MEDICI ARTS 3078384 (Blu-ray: 101:00) Live: Paris 10/23,29/08, 11/4/08

& An Encounter Backstage at the Paris Opèra (20:00)

In The Cunning Little Vixen , Janá?ek takes his usual terse vocal style and adds an unprecedented layer of lushness to the orchestration that creates a sound world that is unique, even when compared to the composer’s other operas. The many purely instrumental preludes and interludes serve to emphasize this unusual and highly personal orchestral sonority. Small wonder that Janá?ek’s parable on life, death, and the cyclic renewal of nature was his favorite opera. In his review of the standard DVD version of this performance ( Fanfare 33:1), James H. North is surprisingly critical of the physical aspects of this production, including the sets, costumes, and even the direction (or lack thereof) for the onstage characters. Granted that the meaning of the basic set is somewhat nebulous, I found the production to be quite striking, given the potential difficulties inherent in staging what is ostensibly a colorful and childlike fairy tale with a distinctly dark subtext. That set presents a field of sunflowers (representing the forest world of the animals) bisected by a railroad track. After reading (and hearing in the bonus featurette) director André Engel’s comments on his production, I am still not completely sure what he is talking about, but that centrally located railroad track is apparently designed to represent the intersection of the two clashing worlds of humans and animals. The production opens with a gorgeous picture of a field of real sunflowers (similar scenes appear subsequently during some of the orchestral interludes), then sharply segues to the harsh and angular railroad track bordered by brilliant yellow sunflowers composing the main set. The colorful costumes do succeed in addressing the issue of animals wandering around on stage interacting with humans.

Elena Tsallagova is an outstanding Vixen. Her bright red-orange hair and matching costume are perfect, as is her incredibly natural acting and athletic stage movements. She virtually inhabits the role of the Vixen. Her rather small voice is attractive and never shrill or strident. Some may complain that she is occasionally overpowered by the always hyperactive orchestra, but in fact, this is a very realistic opera-house presentation of the balance between orchestra and voices. Jukka Rasilainen is fine as the Forester, and the lesser roles are never less than adequate, though Hannah Esther Minutillo as the Fox is inevitably overshadowed by Tsallagova. Dennis Russell Davies conducts a performance that comes close to rivaling the amazing Charles Mackerras/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Decca-London CD in everything but pure and unbridled richness of orchestral sound.

The crisp, almost three-dimensional detail and brilliant colors on this stunning Blu-ray contribute significantly to the success of the production. The high-resolution surround sound reveals every aspect of Janá?ek’s orchestration. The bonus featurette contains brief comments by Tsallagova and Engel, but is mostly involved with the complexities of the costume and makeup of the performers.

This imaginative Paris production effectively addresses the difficulties involved in staging Janá?ek’s one-of-a-kind opera with a bravura performance by Tsallagova and a powerful presentation of the omnipresent wonders of Janá?ek’s amazing orchestral score. Aided by Blu-ray technology, this interpretation of The Cunning Little Vixen will be like a breath of fresh air to those of you looking to go beyond still another La Bohème, Carmen , or shocking but dramatically irrelevant and lifeless new production of The Ring.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janácek
Performer:  Paul Gay (Baritone), Roland Bracht (Bass), Elena Tsallagova (Soprano),
Hannah Esther Minutillo (Alto), Jukka Rasilainen (Bass Baritone), David Kuebler (Tenor),
Michele Lagrange (Soprano)
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Maitrise Children's Choir,  Paris National Opera Chorus,  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921-1923; Brno, Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 11/2008 
Venue:  Opera Bastille, Paris 

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