Bystrouška, Vixen

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(Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen). Sop. Literally, Vixen Sharp Ears (Bystrouška; she was originally called Vixen Lightfoot [Bystronožka] but this was misread at the printers and her originator, Rudolf Tešnohlídek, accepted the new name). A young cub, she lives in the forest among all the birds, insects and other animals. Caught and taken home by the Forester, she is treated as a family pet, but is miserable. As the hens are feeding, she bites off their heads and escapes back to the forest. She meets a Fox, they fall in love, and she becomes pregnant. They marry, the animals joining in their celebrations. The poulty-dealer Harašta chases the Vixen in the forest, her cubs running to hide. She trips him up and kills his chickens. He shoots her. At the end of the year, the Forester, again on his way home, starts to fall asleep in the forest. He sees a young fox cub playing—is it the daughter of the Cunning Vixen? This role requires a soprano of vocal and physical agility. She develops from an innocent cub at the beginning of the opera, through love, marriage, and parenthood to death. Because, despite what befalls individuals, in the larger pattern life goes on, Nature renewing itself as the seasons pass. Impressive performances as the Vixen have been given by Norma Burrowes, Lillian Watson, Lesley Garrett, Lucia Popp, and Rebecca Evans. This opera was put on the international map by the famous production in Berlin (sung in German) by Walter Felsenstein in 1956. Among British sopranos who have shone in this role are Norma Burrowes, Helen Field, Lillian Watson, Lesley Garrett, and Rebecca Evans. Created (1924) by Hana Hrdličková.

Subjects: Opera.

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