Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Cunning Little Vixen|
Director: Geoff Dunbar
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
A lavish animation of Janacek's well-loved classic featuring Sharpears, the lovable, flirtatious fox. Janacek's opera, inspired by the 1920's cartoon strip "Vixen Sharpears," returns to its roots in the hands of innovativ... more »
A flawed treat
Jeffrey Jones | Northern California, USA | 05/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD of the animated Cunning Little Vixen, which aired on the BBC last Thanksgiving, was released this May 20th and I picked it up the next day at a Tower Records in San Jose. I've given it three full viewings since then; it didn't impress me at first, but with the second viewing, it grew on me and the parts of it which I initially liked were amplified. I watched it again just now, after listening to Mackerras' recording again, and now I have a good idea of how it stands in comparison with what's out there.The downsides can be summed up as uneven animation and uneven musicianship, basically. I wish Geoff Dunbar had stuck with the concept of either a moving cartoon or a moving work of art; instead it's a mishmash of the two. Clearly this is a cartoon drawn over some fairly nice-looking paintings as a static background, and it doesn't always work. At times it seems kind of lifeless, other times overly simplistic, sometimes marred by a stuttering frame rate. It certainly pales in comparison with something like Fantasia which is never less than completely, and lushly animated. Occasionally there is a flicker of real beauty, though, and those moments should be prized.There is a bigger problem with the animation, though: Dunbar fails to draw on the possibilities of the translation of an opera to this medium. Warner Bros. did it better with What's Opera, Doc (Wagner's Tannhauser, of course); Dunbar must have missed that one somehow. In particular, where the right touch could heighten the bright colors inherent in this, one of the most gorgeous scores I've ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with, instead it rather dampens my enthusiasm. It lacks vigor where it could use it most.Equally unfortunately, the musical performances are mediocre. Most of the vocalists seem to be constrained by the need to make sure the audience can understand everything without subtitles, but the orchestral bits sound quite bland, too. It totally lacks the vivacity of the wonderful Mackerras recording, still has the power to move me to tears. The depth of this great piece is also lost in rather heavy cuts; the story is still highly coherent and the key points are all there, but a half-hour's worth of musical material cannot disappear without removing something crucial.Enough carping. After all that, this remains a faithful adaptation and it does the emotional and philosophical content of the opera ample justice. Dunbar's approach tends to favor the darker regions of the story, but then, I never appreciated this element of the Vixen, hidden among the brilliance of the more lushly flowered stretches, so as far as I'm concerned, all the better. I'm also happy to report that the story isn't watered down, at all. I was concerned because it isn't exactly child's play. Actually, in one spot I think it's even a bit ruder than the original, and the adult themes of love, death, poaching, animal abuse, and even socialist politics are present, and treated admirably. I would put the cutoff age for viewing at about 10; it's a bit too intense for the younger audience.Finally, as lackluster as this may be as an adaptation of Cunning Little Vixen, it cannot be denied that on the grand scale, this is truly high-quality entertainment. You won't find anything like the maturity and craft of this storyline on CBS, and greater musical sophistication is hard to come by anywhere. Any effort to bring true masterworks closer to the masses is to be lauded, and compared with most efforts, this one bears practically no compromise in artistic integrity. As a diehard Vixen aficionado, who prizes this work as his own favorite opera, I give this effort my blessing."
Janacek's Vixen, de-toothed
Cameron Shaw | 08/18/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It's too bad that Dunbar and crew decided to shorten the opera and aim it at the children's market. The story, in its original form, has sharp teeth. The profundity of Janacek's opera lies in its contrast of mundane and morose humans with the super-*natural* animals, and at 90 minutes, it's succinct. Dunbar -- citing a need to bring the story in under an hour -- focuses pretty much on the cute animals. Worse, the denuded score is sung in a wan, timid style. Janacek's music, though far from Germanic, still demands passion of its singers. On the plus side, there are some nicely animated sequences, and the animation is above-par for today's market. Those who buy this DVD should consider introducing themselves to the *real* work via the MacKerras CD or (perhaps even better) the EMI/Rattle CD, which is in a superior english translation."
Cameron Shaw | 09/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a delightful way to enjoy this wonderful music. A recent review lauded this animation as a clever way to circumvent the cumbersome costumes required. Our only complaint was that some of the lyrics, while in English, are very difficult to understand. Subtitles wouldn't be out of place."
T. C. | 10/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The cunning little vixen is in my opinion one of the greatest operas of the 20th centaury. Maybe Jenufa and Katya Kabanova have bigger dramatic impact, but the music of the vixen is of the highest quality, and although it seems like a children's story, it has a unique mixture of tragic and comic drama, humor, wittiness, bitterness, and a great love and appreciation of nature.
Although this animated version of this enchanting opera is abridged, and the singing is in English, it has great charm (for children and adults alike...) and I highly recommend this DVD to all the lovers of this unique opera.