The characters

Vixen Sharp Ears

Vixen Sharp Ears

Voice type: Soprano

Character traits:

  • Resourceful
  • Brave
  • Clever

Other info:

  • Based on a popular comic strip character
  • One of a series of female heroines inspired by Janáček's own love life
  • To create this character, Janáček studied animal behaviour and observed a family of foxes

The Fox

The Fox

Voice type: Mezzo-soprano

Character traits:

  • Romantic
  • Chivalrous
  • Charming

Other info:

  • Named Gold-Spur
  • A ‘trouser role’, in the typical operatic custom of a woman playing the role of a young man

The Forester

The Forester

Voice type: Baritone

Character traits:

  • World weary
  • Short sighted
  • Impulsive 

Other info:

  • Represents the limited human perspective on nature and life, contrasting with the deeper instincts of animals
  • Finally learns a lesson from the animals
  • Stanislav Lolek, the artist who created the comic strip on which the opera is based, apprenticed as a forester

The story

Act I

In the forest...

...while animals and insects play, the Forester lies down for a nap.

A Young Vixen startles the Forester, who takes her home as a pet.

A while later...

The Vixen is now a young adult, tied up in the Forester's yard and weary of confinement. 

She chews through her rope, teases and attacks a flock of hens, and escapes to freedom.

Act II

Back in the forest...

The Vixen commandeers a badger's home. 

At an inn...

The Forester, the Schoolmaster and the Priest drink. 

They talk about their mutual infatuation with the gypsy girl Terynka.

En route home...

The drunken Schoolmaster mistakes the Vixen for Terynka and confesses his love.

The Forester, also heading home, sees the Vixen and fires two shots at her, but she escapes unharmed.

In the forest...

The Vixen meets the charming Fox.

Smitten, the two retire to the Vixen’s den and are soon obliged to marry.

All the forest creatures celebrate.


The poacher Harašta, who is engaged to Terynka, sets a fox trap.

The Vixen, the Fox and their cubs find the trap and mock it.

Harašta, from a distance, shoots and kills the Vixen.

At the inn...

The Forester learns Harašta will marry Terynka that very day and has given her a fox fur as a wedding present.

The Forester returns to the place in the forest where he met the Vixen.

He recalls his youth, marvels at nature’s beauty and falls asleep.  

A young frog reminds him of the cycle of nature.

The music

Folk music and speech tunes

Janáček created an original, modern musical style based on the distinctive folk music and rhythms of Moravia, the eastern region of the Czech Republic.

In The Cunning Little Vixen Janáček uses his typical ‘speech tunes’ – his conversational-sounding musical adaptation of the rhythms, pitches and inflections of spoken Czech.

Czech verismo

Janáček seamlessly blended his simple folk-derived melodies and ‘speech tunes’ with lushly orchestrated, impressionist harmonies similar to those used by Debussy.

Because of their realistic musical style and portrayal of common people, Janáček’s operas have often been described as ‘Czech verismo’ (Czech operas with similarities to those of Janáček’s popular Italian contemporary Puccini).

Foxy Schmooz

This passionate ‘love at first sight’ scene between the opera’s non-human leading couple rivals any Puccini duet in its romantic sensuality and tenderness.

The Forester

In the opera’s radiant finale the Forester extols creation and its constant renewal in Janáček’s typical ‘speech tunes’, swathed in a rich, impressionistic orchestral tapestry.