Leoš Janáček

The Cunning Little Vixen

14 September - 19 September
Screenings from the 2012 Festival

This is perhaps the only opera to be inspired by a newspaper cartoon strip. Every morning, Janáček would catch up with the latest exploits of the mischievous vixen Bystrouška. He became such a dedicated follower of her adventres that he responded with an outpouring of music, rich in both humour and humanity, which evokes the wooded rolling hills of the composer’s homeland of Moravia. 

Janáček’s vision immeasurably deepens the comic strip’s depiction of rural life. The Vixen encounters humans, of whom she learns to be extremely wary. She ignores the well-meant advice of a mournful dog and does exactly what you might expect when she is confronted by a bunch of hysterical chickens. She cheekily evicts a badger from his home and settles in herself. Eventually, she falls in love with a handsome fox and marries him. 

All around her the life of the forest continues on its inevitable cycle. And the Gamekeeper, growing wiser as he grows older, sees it all. 

Lucy Crowe will make her role debut as the Vixen, with Emma Bell in the role of the Fox. Leading the forces of the London Philharmonic Orchestra will be Music Director Vladimir Jurowski and, returning to Glyndebourne for the first time since her haunting production of Dvořák’s Rusalka, will be director Melly Still.

Rated four stars by the The Daily Telegraph.

Rated four stars by The Independent.

Rated four stars by the London Evening Standard.

'Colourful and joyous' says the Wall Street Journal.

Read a three-way interview with Melly Still, Emma Bell and Lucy Crowe in the Guardian.

Read an interview with Lucy Crowe in The Daily Telegraph.

A new production for the 2012 Festival

Sung in Czech with English supertitles

Revised version by Jiří Zahrádka by arrangement with Universal Edition A.G. Wien.

Listen to The Cunning Little Vixen podcast (15 mins)

Presenter Peggy Reynolds explores some of the themes and stories behind Leoš Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen. With Gavin Plumley, Julian Johnson and Melly Still, Director of the 2012 Glyndebourne production. (Producer: Mair Bosworth)

Download this podcast (right click and select 'Save file as')

The Cunning Little Vixen

Leoš Janáček

This performance is captured live

We want to share our work with as many people as possible. Broadcasts have been part of the Glyndebourne story since the 1930s, and in 2007 we were the first opera house in the UK to screen performances into cinemas.

As well as The Cunning Little Vixen, two other productions are being screened in cinemas.

Picture House

Act 1

On a summer’s afternoon in the forest, Blue Dragonflies dance around the Badger’s sett. The Forester, made sleepy by the heat and his search for poachers, has a doze. Insects and small animals are at play. The young Vixen scares the Frog, who jumps onto the Forester’s nose. Waking, he grabs the Vixen and decides to take her home to amuse the children.

In the courtyard of the Forester’s lodge, his Dog sidles up to the Vixen with amorous intent, but he gets short shrift. Two boys torment her, so she bites them. The Forester is forced to tie her up. She falls asleep and dreams of herself as a young girl. At dawn, the Cock starts lording it over his hens. The Vixen urges them to free themselves of his domination. To lead them on, she plays dead. As they come to inspect her, she grabs the Cock and the hens and despatches them all. As the Forester tries to intervene she pushes him over and escapes. 

Act 2

In the forest, the Vixen upbraids the Badger for occupying such a large sett alone. Wanting the sett for herself, she urinates on him and he stumps off, insulted. The Vixen claims her den.

At the village inn the Forester, Parson and Schoolmaster are chewing the fat. The Forester teases the Schoolmaster about an old girlfriend Terynka; he fires back about the Forester’s failure to subdue the Vixen. Goaded further, the Schoolmaster goes home, soon followed by the others.  

Walking tipsily through the nocturnal forest, the Schoolmaster mistakes the Vixen hiding behind a large sunflower for his beloved, Terynka. The Parson muses on the girl who betrayed him long ago. The Forester in pursuit of the Vixen, fires at her and the others run away.

Moonlight in the forest. The Vixen encounters a handsome Fox and is smitten; he is equally impressed. He woos her with a dead rabbit. They declare their love. They disappear into her den to consummate their union. When they come out, they decide to get married. The forest creatures celebrate their wedding.

Act 3

In the forest the Forester confronts the poacher Harašta, who boasts that he is going to marry Terynka. The Forester decides to set a trap for the Vixen. Both leave.

The little foxes come out to play. Their mother discovers the trap and decides to taunt whoever is responsible. Seeing Harašta she lies in his path. He puts his basket of chickens down, picks up his gun and gives chase but falls flat on his face. The foxes raid his basket. Nursing a broken nose, Harašta fires aimlessly and kills the Vixen. 

Back at the inn, the Forester tells the Schoolmaster he has found the Vixen’s den deserted. The latter learns that Terynka is getting married that day, wearing a new muff made from fox-skin. They talk about the Parson, who has left for a new village where he’s lonely. The Forester pays his bill and sets off for home.

In the forest he remembers his ardent youth. Feeling tired, he admires the natural beauty around him and lies down to sleep. He dreams of the forest animals, and looks around for the Vixen. 

Stretching out his hand towards her, he finds he has picked up the Frog. But it isn’t the same frog, says the amphibian -- that was his grandfather, who used to talk about the Forester. The Forester lets his gun fall. 

George Hall

Creative team

Conductor Vladimir Jurowski
Director Melly Still
Set Designer Tom Pye
Costume Designer Dinah Collin
Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Choreographer Maxine Doyle


Forester Sergei Leiferkus
Vixen (Bystrouška)  Lucy Crowe
Fox Emma Bell
Parson / Badger Mischa Schelomianski
Harašta, a poacher William Dazeley
Forester's Wife / Owl Jean Rigby 
Schoolmaster/Mosquito Adrian Thompson
Pásek, Innkeeper Colin Judson
Innkeeper’s Wife Sarah Pring

London Philharmonic Orchestra

The Glyndebourne Chorus

Audio files: 

Audio extracts courtesy of Chandos

This recording is available to buy on CD from the Glyndebourne Shop

Mischa Schelomianski as Badger in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Louise Moseley as Young Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Chorus members as Hens in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Dancers and Chorus members in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Sergei Leiferkus as the Forester and Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Sergei Leiferkus as the Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Emma Bell as the Fox and Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Sergei Leiferkus as the Forester and William Dazeley as Harašta in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Adrian Thompson as the Schoolmaster  in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Emma Bell as the Fox and Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Emma Bell as the Fox and Lucy Crowe as Vixen Sharp Ears alongside chorus in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper
Jean Rigby as the Forester's wife and Sergei Leiferkus as the Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen 2012. Photo Bill Cooper


We all loved The Cunning Little Vixen. Visually, it was imaginative, always interesting and surprising - the shape of the stage was very clever. We have followed Melly Still's productions and they are exciting and extraordinary. Music and cast were first-rate. Well done!!

(An extract taken from a comment unable to be fully published due to the length - Glyndebourne)

...We saw the production yesterday (Sunday 26 May), a blissfully hot, clear and windless day in which the whole world was looking good – not just the gardens at Glyndeboune. Because of this we went home last night, with our guest, feeling it had been a pleasant experience overall, but we were all disappointed with the opera.

We all found the first Act muddled and over-produced. It distracted us from the course of the story and whilst obviously intended to create lots of atmosphere, ended with us feeling confused and even a little frustrated. We enjoyed the second Act much more – by then the production seemed to have moved from trying to attract our attention, to one where the story was told and we were glad of that.

We shall continue to enjoy coming to Glyndebourne in the confidence that not everything we see will be as expected, and hoping that the ‘wow’ factor continues to eclipse the occasional disappointment as it has always done in the past.

I found the production quite enchanting , music dancing, singing production. It lifted me to another world which is what theatre should do. The dancers complemented the prodction . It was a lovely evening. Janacek must have been avante guarde in 1920's but we hav e all caught up with him at last. Thank you

After enjoying Melly Still's Rusalka so much, this was a must for us, and we were not disappointed. Don't agree at all that Sergei Leiferkus was not a great Forester - he dominated the stage when he needed to, and was a brilliant and menacing presence in the background. If we had not seen the opera before (including the first Glyndebourne production all that time ago) I think we might have found the story line confusing - sometimes the dancers seemed rather out of place. But a magical evening, enhanced by the weather, the garden looking wonderful, an altogether glorious visual feast, inside and out.

Our first visit to Glynebourne and we loved it all. Janacek was new to us and we were both riveted throughout. The combination of music, singing, dance and stunning scenery made it a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The snow scene in particular made an impact. We did agree with one reviewer who commented that the long interval broke up the action too much - with such a short opera a later start with a comfort break was really all that was required.

We so enjoyed your production of The Cunning Little Vixen on thursday evening, and have raved about it to everyone ever since.

What an unpleasant surprise to read Hugh Cannings nasty crit in the Sunday Times Culture section today.
Perhaps he got out of bed the wrong side or has problems, poor jaded soul, certainly from now on I shan't believe anything he writes.

We had not seen this Janacek before, but have previously enjoyed Jenufa and Katya Kabanova.

Please give our congratulations to Melly Still and Tom Pye. We loved the dancing and choreography, including the burrow and vertiginous hill, the tree was a wonder. I loved all the children while my husband particularly loved the chickens!

Sadly one can never please everyone all of the time, please know that your production gave untold joy to hundreds of people. I am recommending that all my friends snap up any returns for a wonderful evening's entertainment.

Well done and keep up the good work!
With many thanks

This opera was not to our taste at all, but we thought we should try something more mocern for a change. Having said that it was a wonderful production. Bring back more Mozart we say.

Having read the Guardian review I arrived wary, but soon found myself enchanted by the production. I do however agree with the comment above about visibility from the Upper Circle; it was indeed difficult to distinguish details upon which much of the effect depended. I had found the same with the Fairy Queen of three or four years ago; many of the comic effects and allusions mentioned in reviews was lost to the Upper Circle. Could critics be seated up there, please?
Finally, re critics: diametrically opposed descriptions of Jurowski's conducting style across different reviews provide yet one more reminder of how subjective reviews are. No need to have arrived so wary!

I have been coming to Glyndebourne every season since 1969 and have found something in every production I have seen which fills me with wonder at the excellence achieved. Sadly this time we were very disappointed. The production was hard to sit through and in the end was very irritating. We felt as though we had, by mistake, arrived on pantomime night but with the story obscured. Musically it was excellent as was the cast.

This week I was front centre upper circle so was able to observe the orchestra when appropriate. My enthusiasm for the whole thing is waxing not waning. I have to say Janacek's take off of a Moravian village band at the start of the pub scene is eye-wateringly funny in the hands of the LPO and Jurowski. I DO hope we are going to get a DVD of this.

A very enjoyable evening with great singing from Lucy Crowe and Emma Bell particularly. The production was pretty good though not ideal - the great moment when the Vixen, captured by the Forester, dreams of her freedom was spoiled by too much activity on stage, and the positive, life-enhancing ending could have been clearer. Nevertheless a fine event - which leaves me rather sad for the critic who wrote the unbalanced review I read today in the 'Sunday Times'.

I don't agree with the Guardian review. I do think the impact may have varied depending on what visual effects were visible, our view from the slips was excellent.
We found it a wonderful start to the season, we were gripped and transported.

It was a complex production. I attended because I so enjoyed the production I saw 37 [?] years ago which was easier to follow. All in all, well done.

Really fantastic,just one small quibble,I took my 2 young sons and found the sex between the cock and hen just too graphic with them watching,I have an email actively promoting childrens tickets for TCLV on specific dates and I wonder whether this scene should be reassessed in view of this

I think that the criticism in the Guardian on 22nd May by Andrew Clements was spot on.

Hadn't seen this Opera before. Loved the music and energy of the production. Sadly we were sitting in Upper Circle which made the set very dark from the distance. We couldn't make out the different animals or see the details of the costumes-except in the last Act with the lights brighter. Frustrating now to read what we missed out on visually. Sounds as though the Stalls and Circle seats got the full impact of the production. Beautifully sung though and well worth seeing

Best production that I have ever seen - and I've seen 4 now!

This was a life enhancing evening. The production was lively, perceptive and did a splendid job of portraying life cycles and human wisdom. Set this on a day when spring was finally springing in the Sussex countryside, add Janacek's unique and glorious musical vision and what more could you want to throw off economic gloom? Well done and thank you to all concerned.

Splendid, splendid...but isn't anyone going to comment on the musical side of the evening, apart from the odd remark and praise for the wonderful Vixen of Miss Crowe? What about the real and rare pleasure of hearing a soprano as Fox, and one so sweet-toned and characterful as Emma Bell? What about Sergei Leiferkus's deeply satisfying and still richly-toned baritone as the Forester? Casting in depth gave us William Dazely as Harasta, a role that -although short- needs a first-class voice and a fine actor. Then there was Mischa Shelomianski's excellent Badger/Priest, Jean Rigby, Sarah Pring, and let's not forget the lieder-like care with which Adrian Thompson delivered his (main) role as the Schoolteacher; very moving. Finally, think about Jurowski's big-boned, craggy yet subtle way with the music and the LPO's just fabulous playing of it. A great evening and I just loved the production but let's not lose focus on what really matters...which is the total experience of opera.

A superb opening to the 2012 Festival and a vintage Glyndebourne production, more than matching the previous Janacek cycle and showing that Glyndebourne remains an ideal Janacek house.

A bit of a mixed bag, I thought.

The idea of a kind of stream/helter skelter down the back of the set was surely taken from Keith Warner's "Rheingold" at Covent Garden and the connection of the singers to that stream by ropes was surely inspired by Robert Lepage's "Ring" in New York. Not terribly original, then, but it workd well and gave the necessary magical impression. Lucy Crowe and Emma Bell were outstanding both vocally and dramatically, but I was disappointed by Leiferkus's Forester. I well remember Thomas Allen's interpretation, which really demonstrated the character's conflicted relationship with the animals. Leiferkus left me wondering what he thought of animals and his relationship with Harasta was, to me, incomprehensible.

Orchestrally, the LPO and Jurowski were magnificent.

I found the production visually stunning. As in the previous comment, I am still not sure what a couple of the woodland creatures were, but the chickens were wonderful. The music was 'different' (I have not heard any Janacek before), and it was not to my husbands taste. I, however enjoyed it very much.

Wonderfully inventive production. A feast for the senses.
Beautiful singing.
Some great music, but not all of it quite up to par. Janacek might especially have reconsidered the last fifteen minutes ...

a feast for the eyes

Wow wonderfully start to the season. The music and sets created a magical tapestry - the costumes of the animals were so creative and just perfectly right summing up the likeness of each character in an imaginative and simple way. The centre stage tree is a masterpiece that captures the style of right now appearing to be made of recycled or is it up cycled wood. Beautifully to listen too and enchanting to watch. This really is a new masterpiece of entertainment although not a lot of convential singing the sounds were evocative and the music took centre stage as it should. I was told I would find this janacek difficult not true it was completely delicious. Grab a ticket if you can - although there's the cliched on stage sex regular visitors have come to expect, the rest of the production rises above this moment of grotesque to be an utter musical triumph. We loved it well done to each and every person involved visionary . X

Lucy Crowe shines out amongst the menagerie of cavorting animals in a stunning first night performance in rural Glyndebourne.Brilliant.

We thoroughly enjoyed TCLV... it is "different" and "a bit earthy" (not just the fox holes). Orchestra, singing and sets are all brilliant.
If it comes into a future year's schedule, we will want to see it again.

I rarely buy top price opera tickets but as I liked this director's Rusalka so much I splashed out on a ticket dead centre of the foyer circle so got an unimpeded view. I was glad I did. This is a lovely production and I am sure Janacek would have been delighted. A few folk commented, and I agreed, that it was sometimes a little hard to work out what woodland animals were being represented on first viewing but that is a minor cavil. The Ukrainian conductor commented in last weekend's study day that Ukraine is close to Moravia and this opera is one he has been longing to do. I think that showed. Nuff said.

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