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The Cunning Little Vixen

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This brand-new production of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, sung in Czech, is the Lyric's first performance of this opera about a female fox and the animal, insect, and human world around her. Based on a comic strip that became a novel, it's rooted in the melodies of Janacek's native folk music and filled with the nature sounds he regularly transcribed. The stage is filled too--the animal and human characters are almost always there together, along with dancing insects, animals, and children, and the striking sets include colorful, larger-than-life pieces of old furniture and enormous sunflowers. This is Janacek's most lyrical opera, and the music is one continuous flow with no distinct arias, stopping only at the end of scenes. Russian-born soprano Dina Kuznetsova, who was trained as a pianist and is an alumna of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, is captivating as the vixen--she has a gorgeous voice and the physical agility to completely inhabit her role. And Chicago-based baritone Philip Kraus sounds great as the poacher. The overall tone of the work, which is definitely suitable for children, is light and happy; in one hoot of a scene the chickens tell the vixen she should be more like them and lay eggs, and as the music takes on a distinctly militaristic sound, she tells them they should liberate themselves from the tyrannical rooster. Janacek also created genuinely poignant moments, as when the vixen falls in love and later when the forester (baritone Jean-Philippe Lafont) sings of his youth as spring arrives--the music Janacek had played at his funeral. Friday 11/26, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $40-$170. See also Monday.

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