It’s a couple of weeks now since we did our annual trip to Glyndebourne, and I just haven’t had much chance since then to sit down and write it up. Hence, this will be a quick round-up of both performances (seen on successive days): Cunning Little Vixen and La Cenerentola.
What to say of Vixen, other than that I still don’t quite get it. The story is thin, to say the least, but to its credit it is told simply and briefly. Janáček’s spare and direct musical and dramatic style serves only to emphasise the thinness, however, and up until the closing 20 minutes, I watch it mildly entertained, but never moved or gripped.
From our restricted view standing places, we missed some of the bright and cartoonish production by Melly Still (the tickets were, nevertheless, great value at a tenner, and available during public booking, so it does go to show that you don’t need to be ‘in the club’ to pick up good affordable (non-)seats for Glyndebourne). The hyperactive cast of lesser animals becomes baffling to try and follow, but if you just sit back and let it wash over you, it has never drags. There was a particularly diverting group (flock? gaggle?) of chickens, all done up in pink frillies with blonde wigs. All of the cast were vivid and engaged in their characters and it is worth singling out Lucy Crowe’s bright and clear Vixen Sharp Ears and Sergei Leiferkus’s Forester. Jurowski kept the score clear and transparent, building to a sensationally rich and overpowering closing passage – possibly more effective for being simpler, with less of the supporting cast bafflingly bustling around. I would happily hear the score again, but not sure I would get excited about seeing a staging. In fact, given the recent fondness for attempting to stage oratorios, I can’t think of an opera that is more crying out to be done as a concert performance.
La Cenerentola was more of a known quantity, and proved a first-rate performance of the work. Peter Hall’s production is pleasingly naturalistic, but clean in its designs, efficiently creating the requisite spaces for the action. James Gaffigan conducted without intrusion, maintaining the pace through the changing moods of chaos and pathos. As Cenerentola, Elizabeth deShong deployed a gorgeously firm, contralto-ish voice, delivering the coloratura with dramatic flair, and rising to a suitably exciting Non piu mesta to bring down the curtain. Shenyang was a mellifluous and suitably enigmatic Alidoro, whilst Elena Xanthoudakis and Victoria Yarovaya captured all the comedy of the ridiculous ugly sisters, alongside the Don Magnifico of Umberto Chiummo. Taylor Stayton sang elegantly and with honeyed, firm voice as Don Ramiro, effectively playing the straight man to stand-in Armando Noguera as a no-less-elegant, but comedically effective, Dandini. Great fun. My Act 1 was marred by a poor seating choice – at the back of the Circle, in one of the boxes – but it was helpfully and efficiently resolved at the interval so I was better able to enjoy the (sadly, shorter) second act.
*** Edited 18 June 2012 – manage to swap round Don Ramiro and Don Magnifico. Dolt. ***