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The Cunning Little Vixen

Exploring man’s relationship with nature, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen moves through the contrasting worlds of the Vixen and the Forester, showing how one chance meeting can forever change the lives of both.

The opera tells the tale of a clever vixen named Sharp Ears. Captured by a local Forester when she is young, she later manages to escape his clutches, but he is forever haunted by her memory.

ENO Performance History

2021/22 season

2000/1 season

1995/96 season

1994/95 season

1990/1 season

1987/88 season

1961/2 season (English Premiere)

Read the introductory guide to The Cunning Little Vixen

Synopsis

Act I

The Forester stops off on his way home and falls asleep. A Cricket and a Grasshopper appear, then a young Vixen approaches. Suddenly awoken by a Frog, the Forester sees the fox cub. He captures her and decides to take her home.

The Vixen has grown up in the Forester’s house, where life is hard: the Forester’s wife hates her, the dog Lapák makes disgusting advances and the children mistreat her. When the Vixen takes revenge on a child, the Forester’s wife demands that the Vixen be tied up. Alone in the yard, the Vixen dreams.

Reality returns at dawn. Horrified to witness the Hens’ submission to the desires of the male chauvinist Cock, the Vixen tries to incite a revolution, but in vain. So she fakes her own death, tricks the Cock and kills him. The Forester attempts to shoot the Vixen, but she slaughters the Hens and escapes.

Act II

The Vixen looks for a home in the forest. Finding the Badger’s sett to her taste, she kicks him out and takes up residence.

The Forester, the Priest and the Schoolmaster meet at the inn. The Forester teases the Schoolmaster about his love life. The Schoolmaster responds with mocking references to the Vixen. The Priest inveighs against all women. When the Innkeeper raises the subject of the Vixen, the Forester storms off.

On the way back, the drunken Schoolmaster sees the Vixen, takes her to be Terynka, the woman he loves, and pours out his heart. The Priest arrives, and the sight of the Vixen evokes an unhappy love story from his youth. The last to turn up is the Forester, still in pursuit of the Vixen. Spotting her, he fires his gun, but she again escapes.

The Vixen meets a Fox: they fall in love and spend the night together. The following morning, the Vixen is shocked to discover she is pregnant. So the Fox takes her to the Woodpecker, who marries them. A wedding celebration ensues.

Interval of 20 minutes

Act III

The poacher Harašta, out hunting, meets the Forester, who grows angry when he hears of Harašta’s imminent marriage to Terynka. Discovering a dead rabbit, the Forester realises the Vixen is nearby and prepares a trap. But she, accompanied by her cubs, laughs at the foolish trick. Coming across the Vixen, Harašta chases her, and shoots her dead. The Forester stumbles across the body.

Back in the tavern, the Forester and the Schoolmaster talk to the Innkeeper’s wife about the Priest, who has moved to another parish. They also discuss Terynka, who will marry wearing a new fox-fur muff …

Leaving the inn, the Forester reflects on his life, his youth and his marriage. When he sees a fox cub, closely resembling the young Vixen he once possessed, he wonders whether he should capture her and take her home.