The Cunning Little Vixen, Suite from the opera
Janacek, Leos / arr. Talich, Václav
Leoš Janáček – The Cunning Little Vixen
Suite (1937) arranged by Václav Talich from Janáček’ opera (1923)
[baptized Leo Eugen Janáček]
(b. Hukvaldy, Moravia, Austrian Empire, 3 July 1854 –
d. Ostrava, on the border of Silesia and Moravia, 12 August 1928)
(Czech: Príhody Lisky Bystrousky, literally Tales of Vixen Sharp-Ears)
(4 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1 – timp, perc (3), harp, celesta, bells, and quintet of strings)
6 November 1924 at the National Theatre Brno, conducted by František Neumann
Conductor Václav Talich transformed the music of Act One of The Cunning Little Vixen into a suite for orchestra in 1937. His fellow conductor Václav Smetáček reworked the arrangement in 1965.
The Inspiration for the Opera
Leos Janáček penned what is likely the most endearing opera ever inspired by a comic strip. The Cunning Little Vixen (composed 1921-1923) is a touching tale of the cycle of life in a European forest – featuring a brilliant orchestral score and characters as varied as the forest itself.
Leos Janáček drew the story for his touching opera about Vixen Sharp-Ears from a serialized commentary written by Rudolf Tesnohlídek for 200+ humorous drawings by Czech artist Stanislav Lolek (1873-1936). Lolek is best remembered for his illustrations in the serialized novella (daily comic) Liška Bystrouška. The editor of the newspaper Lidové Noviny recommended Lolek’s illustrations of a rural tale about a gamekeeper and a vixen to Czech author Rudolf Těsnohlídek. Their collaboration (literally translated as Vixen Sharp-ears) appeared in the newspaper from 7 April to 23 June 1920, later being expanded into a novel by Těsnohlídek. The story was used as the basis for Janáček’s opera. Far from a children’s opera, the Czech composer’s bittersweet fable has wise, adult things to tell us about love, sex, death, and the unending cycle of life. Janacek’s atmospheric score is a tapestry of terse dialogs, ravishing orchestral interludes, and genre scenes so skillfully drawn you can all but smell the damp moss of the forest.
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