The Cunning Little Vixen synopsis
Music by Leoš Janáček
Libretto by the composer after Rudolf Těsnohlídek’s novel
First performed: 1924
The forest. Summer.
The Badger dozes in the heat of the afternoon, pestered by flies. The Dragonfly dances. The Forester pauses for a nap on his way home. While he sleeps, the Cricket and the Caterpillar give a concert. A young Vixen is exploring the forest for the first time. The forester wakes, and catches the inexperienced cub.
The yard of the Forester’s cottage. Autumn.
The Vixen endures the morose sexual advances of the Dog, and defends herself vigorously against the baiting of the Forester’s children. She is tied up for her pains. The Vixen dreams of her sensual awakening and liberation. Outraged by the economic and sexual slavery of the Hens, she becomes a feminist. But the Hen’s conservatism is too much for her, and she systematically kills them all. She confronts the Forester and: escapes.
The refugee Vixen returns to the forest and ruthlessly evicts the Badger. She settles gratefully into his comfortable home.
The inn. Winter.
The Forester, full of drink, baits the Schoolmaster about his hopeless passion for Terynka, a gypsy girl. The Parson is pursued by his own sexual guilt and remorse. But the Forester too is susceptible when he is taunted about the Vixen that he lost and finally rishes out in pursuit of her.
The forest. Winter.
The Vixen haunts the Schoolmaster and Parson as they stumble home from the inn. The Schoolmaster mistakes her for Terynka and is inspired to the single passionate outburst of his life. The Parson recalls his fatal encounter with a seductive young girl in his student days. The Forester wildly hunts the Vixen through the forest.
The forest. Spring.
The Vixen finds a mate and is soon obliged to marry.
The forest Autumn.
The Poacher, Harašta is going to visit Terynka, whom he is to marry. He finds a dead hare – one of the vixen’s victims. The Forester warns him to stay off poaching and sets a trap for the Vixen. The Vixen and her mate play with their cubs. They find the trap and ridicule the Forester’s incompetence. Harašta returns to pocket the hare. The Vixen at first outwits him but becomes carried away by her exalted defiance of man and is shot.
The Schoolmaster bitterly regrets his lost opportunity – Terynka is to marry today. The Forester however accepts his growing age and gladly sets out for a quiet nap in the forest.
The forest. Summer.
Inspired by the beauty of nature, the Forester’s imagination is awakened for a moment of spiritual perception. He sleeps and dreams of the Vixen. A Frog reminds him of the inevitable cycle of nature and he sleeps on, contented.
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