Janáček, Leos: The Cunning Little Vixen
Act 3: Monologue, “Nerikal jsem to?” (Forester)
Aria Talk •
Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
I won’t deny that this is a challenge, especially if you’re singing it in the original Czech rather than in translation. The text, however, is absolutely integral to Janáček’s style, so if you can’t handle it confidently, this piece is best avoided. The fact remains, though, that it’s the lyrical climax of this gloriously life-enhancing work and if you can manage it both vocally and textually, you’ll find singing it an enormously uplifting experience.
The young vixen has been captured and brought home by the forester to his farm. She escapes and, after meeting the seductive fox, decides to marry him. Grown to adulthood, she has a slew of cubs but, sadly, is shot by the poacher Harašta. The life cycle of the vixen (a character of extraordinary vitality) is shown in contrast to the weary forester, who feels age overtaking him. In the opera’s finale, on the way home from the tavern, he finds himself in the forest, remembering his wedding years before. He realizes how gratifying the beauty of the forest is, representing as it does the renewal of life.
This music doesn’t come to an obvious halt but in an audition situation one can cut it off immediately after the forester falls asleep. The monologue’s vocal range is wide — although taken on by “pure” baritones regularly, the role is popular with bass-baritones as well. This is the opera’s one moment when the singer portraying the forester can burst forth with every bit of vocal splendor of which he is capable. The first half is essentially half recitative and half arioso, although one can already bring real warmth into the voice here. The sequence of repeated high Fs has to be managed with a fair degree of gentleness. At the words “A prece su rád,” however, as the forester begins to speak of “the fairies coming home again, back to their summer haunts,” a magical — indeed, an overwhelming — lyricism takes over the vocal line. The climax, on a sustained high F#, is one of the most thrilling moments of vocalism in any Janáček opera.
Score: Universal Edition
Recording: Dalibor Jedlièka in complete recording, Decca #417129; Sir Thomas Allen in complete recording (in English), CHAN3101
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