Opera For Beginners

Opera Profile: Janacek’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’

Leo Janacek composed some of opera’s greatest masterpieces, including “The Cunning Little Vixen,” or “Příhody lišky Bystroušky” in the original Czech.

The opera, which had its world premiere on Nov. 6, 1924, is arguably the composer’s best-known opera, its themes allowing it to be showcased as a more serious drama or even as children’s entertainment. The opera’s finale was played at the composer’s funeral.

Short Plot Summary

A Forester takes a nap in a forest full of excited animals and insects. A curious but young Vixen chases a frog right into the lap of the forester, who takes the animal home as a pet. The Vixen grows up tied to the forester’s yard. The Vixen, sick of its existence, breaks free, killing a bunch of chickens in the process.

The vixen takes residence in a badger’s home while the forester, schoolmaster, and pastor talk about their mutual interest in the gypsy girl Terynka. The forester spots the vixen on the way home and fires two shots at her. The vixen meets a boy fox and the two eventually elope.

The poacher Harasta winds up engaged to Terynka and goes hunting in anticipation of their marriage. He sets a fox trap and eventually shoots down the vixen. At the wedding, the forester sees the vixen’s fur and flees to the forest to reflect. He returns to the place where he met the vixen and grieves the loss of both his former pet and the beloved gypsy. Suddenly another frog, the grandson of the one from the beginning of the opera, falls into his lap. The cycle of death to new life gives him a deep peace.

Watch and Listen

Here is a performance of the full opera from the Millard Auditorium in early 2017.

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