Cher Public

21st century fox

“A singing crossbreed—a fox with human intelligence—stars in Leos Janacek’s opera, The Cunning Little Vixen. If only the New York Philharmonic’s semistaged performance Wednesday night were as successful a hybrid.” [New York Post]

  • cosmodimontevergine

    I have to agree with JJ’s assessment of Vixen at the Philharmonic. Last year’s Le Grand Macabre seemed more suited to the airplane-hanger spaces of Avery Fisher Hall. Vixen needs more intimacy to work. The sound lacked the impact it might have had in a smaller theater -was it because the orchestra was somewhat recessed?

  • brooklynpunk

    I’m still excited to be going tonight!

  • Will

    Ah, talk of a muscular baritone had me thinking I was reading a different critic in another NYC paper. :-)

    I liked the NYCO production but San Francisco had a production that was truly magical. Maybe this one will pull together with repetition.

    • ianw2

      Merola y’know…

  • papopera

    One of the greatest scores of the XXth Century.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    The famous well-paid stage hands of New York transform Philharmonic Hall


    • leonora3

      Thank you for posting these lovely examples from Little Wixen. They reclect Janacek perfecttly , his love for nature, animals and human beeings! There is a lot of atmosphere in it and their Czech is very good (I speak this language).It’s always better to do it in original language as it is so closely connected with music. Last Vienna’s Jenufa was in German, though so many Czechs live in this previous Austro-Hungarian capital and it was set somewhere in the indefinite country,(England (?)where industrial revolution started) . Why? Last month Katya Kabanova from Vienna is in Czech (at least) but it is set in Russian section in New York and there is no the River Volha, but Hudson River. What for? Janacek loved Russian literature, Ostrovskij and went personally to Russia to see and to experience Volha River and was highly impressed. And that’s not enough, there is an indication of lesbian love between Katya and Varvara. What for? Janacek knew a lot about human feelings and love, but there is nothing in his opera about lesbian love. I believe, if Janacek wanted to put his story in Amerika he would have compposed it in a diffrent way. It was his method to study the sources closely related to topics of the story.
      I just want to express my admiration and thanks to artists in New York (and earlier this year in Philadelpia) that they interpreted Janacek with such understanding and beauty! As I mentioned earlier it’s not a standard.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        You give the Americans too much credit! The excerpts in No. 5 above are from a production in Paris, where they also had a LOT of sun flowers onstage. Walter Felsenstein and his wonderful ensemble at the Komische Opera understood this opera really well even though he used a tenor fox and some of the pitches are approximate. These excerpts are from the film version of his stage production. Rudolf Asmus and Irmgard Arnold were unforgettable

        • brooklynpunk

          no…the sunflowers are not an original American conceit… they were used very beautifully in the Paris production..BUT…they STILL LOOKED LOVELY on the Avery Fisher Stage, non-the less…!

  • Hello all:

    Colorado Public Radio will be broadcasting Central City Opera’s production of Carmen live this Saturday (6/25/2011) evening. The broadcast starts at 7:30 p.m.(CST) and it will also be heard on CO Public Radio’s website. The cast is as follows:
    Carmen: Kirstin Chávez
    Micaëla: Elizabeth Caballero
    Don José: Jon Burton
    Escamillo: Gustavo Ahualli

    Unfortunately, I will not be able to either listen or record it since I am having internet issues. I have it on good authority that the cast is specially effective and it will be worth a listen so I am sharing the information with you all just in case you want to listen.

    The link to more information is:

    and the link for Colorado Public radio is:|Carmen_Opens_Central_City_Opera_Season

    • grimoaldo

      Central City Opera!
      Good for them that they are still going!
      I went there as a child with my family many years ago and saw operas I will never forget.

  • mifune

    I’ve been to both nights so far -- Janá?ek is favorite. Wednesday I was up in the second balcony, tonight was in a fairly central orchestra seat. I saw Le Grand Macabre from both places, and enjoyed two views of the production. Seeing Vixen in the orchestra made an enormous difference. Everything was better -- orchestra had a richer sound, singing was clearer, loved the production, loved Gilbert and the Philharmonic. (Wednesday I wondered “Why bother singing in English when you can’t understand anything anyways?” Such are the miseries of Avery Fisher.) Sadly I have to agree about Bayrakdarian, the top sounded strident and the rest mushy. I really enjoyed the rest of the cast, though.

    • brooklynpunk

      I LOVED IT… SAW Vixen tonight (Thurs)… If for no other reason then it is the FIRST time (fer me) that the hideous interior of Avery Fisher Hall looked quite lovely , in its foresty settings…and beautiful costumes..

      The ONLY beef I had was.. WTF was it done in English?? very little could be deciphered ( and I was in the front orchestra…)..and there were super-titles projected on a lovely fabric scrim above the stage, anyways……

      This was also ( for me) a rare opportunity to really praise the Philharmonic sound, under Maestro Gilbert—up until this performance, I have been bitterly disappointed with what seemed so promising (on paper, at least) after the departure of Maazel..but rarely has lived up to my expectations..until this evening….

      • CarlottaBorromeo

        And it would be sensible to perform it in Czech with a cast and conductor containing exactly how many Czech speakers for an audience containing what percentage of Czech speakers..?

        But of course going to the opera is all about reading skills isn’t it?!

        • brooklynpunk


          What’s the point in singing in English.. if 98% of what is sung is unintelligible.?..they might has well have been singing in Czech—although the language would have had a better fit to the the musical line…

          • CarlottaBorromeo

            Well the point would be that at least the singers and conductor would know what they are singing -- even if nobody else did!! Colin Davis to his great credit would not conduct operas sung in a language he did not speak (hence he only conducted Onyegin in English)

            Charles Mackerras could never see the point of doing Janacek in Czech with non-Czech-speaking singers… he was right!

          • m. croche

            Concerns about language never seem to crop up when Beethoven’s 9th, Mahler symphonies, polyglot song recitals or Latin masses are performed. In the US, Carmen is regularly sung in miserable French to uncomprehending audiences. Nor will any lift a finger to translate Wagner’s far-from-colloquial German into singing English.

            It’s now the 21st century. The Berlin Wall fell more than 20 years ago. Older notions of a “civilized” Western Europe and a “barbaric” Eastern Europe have long since fallen by the wayside. The Slavic languages are closely enough related that a bit of study in one of them gives you some access to the others. We’re not talking quantum mechanics here.

            I sympathize with Carlotta’s point that there is a place for performances which emphasize maximum intelligibility for audiences. But if we wish to take the European cultural heritage seriously, we should raise ourselves up to its level. That means, where feasible, respecting the languages through which the composers expressed themselves.

          • CarlottaBorromeo

            Well M Croche I was at a Cosi recently where the action was located in Britain and there wasn’t a single native Italian-speaker in the cast (and damn few in the audience I’m sure). Yet it was dutifully sung in Italian and the audience dutifully spent the evening looking at the surtitles above the stage. And what is the point in that? Everyone might as well have stayed at home and listened to a CD -- the singing would probably have been better!

          • For me, the issue of language is about more than whether the singer’s diction is intelligible. The original languge of the opera is an integral part of the music. The vowels, the consonants, the number of syllables in a word are all part of the sounds that the composer has created.

            I still remember the first time I heard a Traviata in Swedish (a live recording with Bjoerling). In the Germont/Violetta scene, Germont’s “piangi” turned into something rhyming with “oooh”. It was just so awkward (almost comical) and it changed the music for the worse.

            So, as far as I’m concerned, even if the singer doesn’t communicate the language well or if the language is completely foreign to the audience, there’s still the benefit of keeping the music sounding more authentic.

            I should say that while I generally prefer the original language, there are times when a different language can be effective. It’s up to the director, conductor and cast to make the case. At the company where I work (Opera Atelier), we did Figaro in English. At first I was appalled. But when I heard the wonderful translation by Jeremy Sands (from the ENO), I was completely won over. The cast did a beautiful, clear job of enunciating the text and the comedy became more immediate. One of my donors, who has trained as a singer, was even more appalled and she let me know about it. After seeing the performance, she came to me and did complete mea culpa because she, too, was won over.

          • m. croche

            Not much more to add to what B-punk and Kashania have already said, but to reply to Carlotta’s specific “what is the point in that?” example:

            Non-native Italians can learn to sing Italian, just like they learned to sing the notes. It’s part of the job description, and most good artists will take the trouble to acquire sufficient familiarity with the language to be able to understand and deliver the role convincingly. This is a pretty global age and the barriers to language acquisition are significantly lower than they used to be.

            The audience that attended the Cosi all probably did have CDs of the opera at home and have probably spent a little time in their lives looking at the enclosed libretto.

            There’s no crime in performing an opera in the “vernacular” -- and the results are sometimes great -- but I don’t see the reason for heaping scorn on the idea of an opera being done by (and for) non-native speakers of the opera’s language. We still live in an age where fidelity to the score is valued. As the saying goes:

            “Translations are like (wo)men: the beautiful ones aren’t faithful, and the faithful ones aren’t beautiful.”

          • brooklynpunk

            Just to play “Devil’s advocate” fer a bit..I ALSO have no major problems with a work occassionally being performed in the audience’s native tongue--IF- the translation--and the Artists- are well-honed in making the exercise CLEARLY UNDERSTANDABLE ( which was NOT the case , in the current “Vixen”)

            THE MET did a “Bartered Bride”, with Stratas et al.. which I though worked very well, in English .

            At last week’s master class for singers in the Martina Arroyo Foundation Program, Stephanie Blythe commented that nothing drives her crazier then seeing the audience with their faces looking up at the super-titles, instead of looking at the stage and the singers…..

            In the long-run, however.. with very few exceptions.. I wanna hear the work(s) in the language they were meant to be performed in….

          • Erdgeist

            Kashania: The vowels, the consonants, the number of syllables in a word are all part of the sounds that the composer has created.

            And if there’s a composer to whom this comment is particularly relevant, that’s Janá?ek, whose attention to the cadences and contours of Czech speech when writing his operas is well known. I don’t speak Czech (although armed with the libretto and some Russian, I get more out of it), but this effect I’m describing is very noticeable in Janá?ek and one of the reasons I like his work. I imagine it all but disappears when translated. I was actually quite disappointed when I found out this version would be done in English.

          • Erdgeist


            Oops. Sorry for the hachek job.

          • CarlottaBorromeo

            Does meaning and communication count for so little here? Only sound… Sound is important but it is not everything. Leaving out Glass’s Satyagraha and Stravinsky’s Oedipus (both for very specific aeshtetic reasons) can anybody provide an example of a composer who actively did not want an audience to understand the language of his opera? There’s a letter in the archives at Covent Garden in Cosima’s handwriting but signed by Wagner himself in which he expresses astonishment that a promoter would not want to perform Lohengrin in English for an English audience…

            To return to the Cosi example I’m afraid we would all be deluding ourselves if we thought the bulk of the audience had diligently studied the libretto in a line-by-line translation before hand. But even if they had should attending an operatic performance be like sitting an exam? How much of the set text can I remember..?

            Perhaps most of us here are obsessives and do our “homework”. But the majority of people who attend opera performances don’t…

            I’ll shut up on the subject now!

          • m. croche

            Carlotta, do foreign films that aren’t dubbed but which have subtitles drive you bonkers as well?

            Wagner didn’t live in an age of sub/super/side-titles. His contribution to the debate should be considered in that context.

          • CarlottaBorromeo

            M Croche

            Two points:

            Subtitles on films can be taken in by the viewer with only a very small loss of connection to the visual image -- no titling system in any opera house I know on three continents can manage that.

            Films in languages other than English are usually acted by actors working in their native tongue (which was a large part of my initial point). I am NOT saying singers cannot communicate in a tongue not their own but something is lost in communication. Of course translations lose something from the original -- but performances in a tongue not native to the singers or audience lose something too!

          • m. croche

            Hi there, Carlotta:

            1) I’m not sure the difference between Met-titling or supertitling and film subtitling is quite as categorical as you’re making it out to be. Judging by your response, though, I’m concluding that you don’t in fact have a problem with foreign films which are subtitled, not dubbed. And I would repeat: many members of an opera audience already have some familiarity with the plot, text and/or content of the opera they are seeing.

            2) I believe good singers are fully capable of being effective communicators in languages other than those in which they were raised. I don’t really think this is a controversial proposition.

            Or perhaps we should go back to the old days of the Budapest opera, when each performer sang whichever language s/he felt most comfortable in?

        • Bluessweet

          Xenophiles of the world unite!…. Where’er your local banners are planted, all other local banners are defied…

          But for those of a more universal outlook, here’s what the trends is at one of America’s most successful vocal schools: (It should be noted that this is a semi-independent project.)

          • Bluessweet

            Xenophobes, obviously

          • brooklynpunk


            Thank you so much fer that very interesting link…!!

          • Bluessweet

            BP the Onegin was simply great! If you’ve an interest, stop in to the Iolanta next month. You will not be disapointed. I wintend to see it with my SO.

      • dallasuapace

        It is wrong to think that singers can sing just any language so long as they can make some wild approximation of the correct sounds. If the singers don’t know what every word means and how every word relates grammatically to every other word, and if they don’t know exactly how to pronounce every vowel and consonant, they are just singing nonsense syllables, and probably even then not correctly.

        • brooklynpunk

          Thank-you, m. croche..!!

        • oedipe

          m.croche, I wish you were right…Even on “educated” Parterre there are a number of people who don’t think like you, who never miss an opportunity to make an offensive remark about Eastern Europeans.

          • oedipe

            (Sorry) I was referring to this:

            ‘Older notions of a “civilized” Western Europe and a “barbaric” Eastern Europe have long since fallen by the wayside.’

          • m. croche

            Point taken.

  • reedroom

    suggesting a community theater production of “Cats.”


  • Henry Holland

    Veteran baritone Alan Opie found pathos as the Forester

    But he’s an effin’ Brit! That’s unpossible!

    Wonderful opera, it seems like the wrong space for it. I loved NYCO’s production back in the 90’s (late 80’s?).

  • The Vicar of John Wakefield

    In the finest traditions of Noble, Bailey, Rawnsley and Hammond-Stroud!

  • cosmodimontevergine

    The Czech language is integral to Janacek’s vocal music and to a lot of his instrumental music as well. The choice of English by the Philharmonic was consistent with the dorky production.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      Did Janacek write the words, too? If a composer does the music, and someone else writes the lyrics, then surely a good translation that is faithful to the music should satisfy, even if it is not entirely word-for-word or turn-of-word accurate.

      The “piangi” that changed to an “oooh” sound was a bad translation. Similarly, in English, it can’t be “cry,” because that’s only one syllable. A challenge for a translator/lyricist that can be overcome.

      A different challenge is translating from a flowing and often soft language like Italian or French to one that seems full of gutterals and harsh stops, like German. I am not familiar enough with Czech to be sure, but I think it has more similarities with English than it does with, say, Italian. (Having heard The Bartered Bride in Czech, which did not sound all that weird to my ears.)

  • Simon Blackmouth

    I don’t know if the complaints about diction were from people in the auditorium, but I listened to the broadcast on wqxr and had no problems understanding the singers.

    • cosmodimontevergine

      No complaints about diction, it’s just that as Janacek is often inspired in his motivic musical invention by the sound and rhythm of Czech, the score seems to be missing an element when performed in English which has an entirely different weight. Janacek wrote the libretto -adapted from the newspaper text that had accompanied the cartoon.

      Wagner suffers a similar impoverishment when sung in English -language isn’t interchangeable and English just doesn’t have the right specific gravity. But I think it matters even more with Janacek.

  • parpignol

    high point of the Philharmonic season for me; what a beautiful opera! and with the Bartered Bride at Juilliard makes Lincoln Center this year’s special site for Czech opera in English; too bad there’s not an event like this (or like Grand Macabre) scheduled for the end of next year’s season; budget? and too bad that it’s still so hard to become engaged by Gilbert’s conducting. . . but Friday’s house felt pretty full, and this (somewhat like the Ligeti) seemed to have become an event to attend!