Pacific Opera Victoria

By Leoš Janáček

Venue Royal Theatre Dates 10,12, 17, 19 February 2005

Reviewer J H Stape

Conductor Timothy Vernon
Director Wim Trompert Set & Costume Designer Leslie Frankish Lighting Designer Harry Frehner


 

The Vixen Lambroula Maria Pappas Fox Monica Huisman Gamekeeper James Westman Schoolmaster/Mosquito Peter Blanchet Badger/Pastor Terry Hodges Forester's Wife/Owl Rebecca Hass Blue Jay/Rooster Colleen Renihan Chocolka Marilyn Arsenault Pasek Lapak Justin Welsh Eric Olsen Innkeeper's Wife/Woodpecker Alison Nystrom Harasta Chad Louwerse Pepik Carina Teoh Frantik Emilie Wong Little Girl Viviane Fairbanks


Pacific Opera Victoria's elegant and compelling production of Leoš Janáček's fairytale The Cunning Little Vixen is another bold choice for a company on the move. Its triumphant Wozzeck of the season before last definitively proved that so-called "challenging" repertoire can succeed outside the major opera houses. The packed-to- the-rafters house for this charming, magical work proved this once more.

Evidence of the company's maturity and sophisticated audience expectations were the superbly designed costumes and the playful eye-candy set by Leslie Frankish, both wholly "Made in Victoria." Director Wim Trompert's stage action was never less than coherent and purposeful. Avoiding the Scylla and Charybdis of contemporary opera productions -- realism's dead hand or facile gimmickry unconnected to the music -- this was an intelligently thought out, carefully crafted staging down to its smallest details.

At points the opera's storyline makes Le Forza del Destino look taut, and people playing animals -- hopping about as blue jays or chickens -- however old the beast fable tradition, always has something overly coy about it, but Janáček was so well served musically, both from the pit and on stage, that one became full immersed in what is essentially an exploration of the large themes of love and death, the cycle of nature, the meaning of time.
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Maestro Timothy Vernon caressed out lovingly detailed performances from his orchestra and principals, despite a sour note or two in the pit. Lambroula Maria Pappas's Vixen was a marvellous confection shot through with fine sing and masterful acting. She was partnered by Monica Huisman as The Fox, whose silken voice and fine stage sense belong in the show-stealing category. Bass-baritone Chad Louwerse in the role of Harasta the Poacher laboured under a vocal indisposition announced before the final act.

James Westman's offered a well-wrought Gamekeeper, his monologue in the final scene almost unbearably moving as he contemplated the relentless cycles of nature and pondered the meaning of life. The several minor roles were capably filled, with Justin Welsh as Lapak the Dog making a memorable contribution, and the nervous Schoolmaster/Mosquito of Peter Blanchet likewise standing out from a large and able crowd.

All in all, this was a triumphant production wholly justifying a trek across the Georgia Strait. Pacific Opera Victoria's Tosca is still to come this season, and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Britten's Rape of Lucretia, and Rigoletto in 2005-06. Do go!

2005 J. H. Stape


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