Das schlaue Füchslein
OPERA IN THREE ACTS
Libretto by the composer
What does nature mean when it is brought to
the operatic stage using artistic techniques? A forester catches a little fox
in the woods and drags it home with him. While following her animal instincts,
the vixen behaves in a surprisingly human way: she gossips, steals and kills,
fights for her freedom, seizes the moment to win her great love and shows the
humans around her what it means to be alive. The Cunning Little Vixen, first performed in 1924 and based on a
novella by Rudolf Tešnohlídek, is an unconventional portrayal of humans and
animals in which Leoš Janáček breaks new ground. His music, as playful as it is
melancholy, celebrates the circle of life. For Stefan Herheim, this is a good
reason to use Janáček’s opera to celebrate the transformational power of
musical theatre when he makes his bow at the Theater an der Wien as a hands-on
In Czech with surtitles
Introduction to the work 30 minutes before the performance
Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Leitung: Erwin Ortner)
Act I The forester, walking through the woods, lies down to sleep. All around him the woodland animals, both large and small, bustle about. When he awakes he sees a little vixen. He catches her and takes her home for his children to play with. – The vixen grows up in the forester’s house alongside the family dog that has long been used to humans. The forester’s son and his friend provoke the vixen, which bites the boy. As a punishment, the vixen is tied to a leash in the yard. She now incites the chickens to revolt against the humans. When she realises that the chickens are perfectly content with their role as livestock she tears out their throats one by one and escapes.
Act II In the wood, the vixen drives the badger out of his home and moves in herself. – At the inn, the forester, schoolmaster and priest are drinking beer together. The forester makes fun of the schoolmaster for his infatuation with a certain Terynka. The schoolmaster replies by teasing the forester about the escaped vixen. As dawn breaks, the three men make their way home. The priest remembers a lost love from his youth, the schoolmaster mistakes a sunflower for the unattainable Terynka and the forester thinks he sees the vixen in the bushes. – The vixen meets a fox in front of her new home and the two fall in love. It is not long before the vixen is expecting cubs, and the woodland animals celebrate the wedding of the fox and the vixen.
Act III In the wood, the forester meets the poultry seller Harašta who has just “found” a dead rabbit. To change the subject and avoid being accused of poaching, Harašta tells the forester about his forthcoming marriage to Terynka. The forester puts out the rabbit as a trap for the foxes. The two foxes, who now have numerous children, see through the ruse immediately. The mischievous vixen provokes Harašta while her children steal the chickens from his basket. The furious Harašta fires into the midst of the frolicking fox family. The vixen is hit, and dies. – At the inn, only the forester and the schoolmaster are left: the priest has been transferred to another town. The schoolmaster mourns the loss of Terynka. The forester is drawn back into the woods. – In the wood, the forester thinks back to his youth and, for the first time in a long time, realises how beautiful nature is. He looks around for the little vixen, but the animals now bustling around him are a new generation.