The cunning little vixen - Synopsis
The cunning little vixen
There was once a forester who lived with his good, industrious wife and their two adolescent sons in a small forester's lodge, which was also home to an old dog, a couple of hens and their cockerel and several rabbits. After he had finished his work for the day the forester liked to meet up with the parson and the village schoolmaster in the local inn to play cards and drink a glass or two of beer.
The forester is returning home after one of his regular meetings with his friends in the inn. As he feels tired - perhaps also because he has had a little too much to drink, something his wife does not necessarily need to find out - he decides to take a little nap in the woods. He lies down and immediately falls asleep. The woods around him are teeming with life; a vixen cub is venturing out for the first time alone and suddenly finds herself face to face with a frog which is trying to catch a mosquito. The frog is taken by surprise and jumps quickly, landing on the forester, who wakes up. He immediately notices the fox cub, catches her and takes her home with him.
The little vixen has a miserable life in the forester's lodge. The forester's wife is disgruntled at having to look after her, the dachshund is forever making clumsy overtures of friendship and the children tease her. When the little vixen bites one of the boys in the leg, the forester ties her up. As he does, this he is suddenly overcome by a feeling of great tenderness for the little creature, and, as night has fallen in the meantime, he drifts into a trance-like state, half awake, half dreaming, in which the little vixen almost seems to him to change into a girl, the young woman he married all those years ago. With the dawn he is brought back to reality.
The little vixen observes the hens, who are mindlessly laying eggs upon the command of the cockerel. Disgusted at this obsequious behaviour, the little vixen tries to convince the hens that they must fight for their own rights. In vain! She then pretends to be dead, and the cockerel and the hens are taken in by her trick. When they approach her she bites off their heads. At this chaos breaks out in the forester's lodge, the forester intervenes and hits out at the little vixen, who manages to escape into the woods at the last minute.
The little vixen is enjoying her freedom. She discovers a badger's sett and begins to tease the badger, ably abetted by the other animals in the wood. The badger takes the huff and is driven out of his sett.
The three friends - the forester, the parson and the schoolmaster - have met up once again to play cards in the inn and as they have already had quite a lot to drink they are talking rather loudly - about the past in particular. The forester mocks the schoolmaster about his lack of success with women and the schoolmaster takes his revenge on the forester by asking him about the little vixen who has escaped. The parson has to leave the village, his superiors are transferring him to another parish because of a love affair.
The schoolmaster, quite tipsy, is making his way home shakily through the night. He mistakes a sunflower, behind which the little vixen is hiding, for Terynka, the girl he loves. The parson also senses the mysterious presence of the little vixen and memories of his unhappy love are reawakened. The drunken forester appears, looking for his little vixen, and rudely awakens them from their dreams. He catches sight of the little animal he loved and takes aim, but the shots fails to hit the fox, which manages to escape from him a second time.
The little vixen is now a fully-grown fox. One day she discovers a young fox near her earth and immediately takes a great liking to him. The fox is also delighted with the young vixen and pays her polite compliments. She tells him a romanticised story of how she grew up in the forester's lodge and of the tricks she got up to there. The fox finally declares his love for her and they disappear into their earth. The watchful owl has carefully observed what has being going on and loudly proclaims her disgust at the immoral behaviour of the little vixen. The affair is not without its consequences and when the vixen tells the fox that she is now an expectant mother, he sends for the woodpecker, who marries them. The animals in the wood are celebrating the wedding, when the rejoicing is brought to an abrupt end: there are human beings walking through the wood.
Harasta, a pedlar of poultry, whose great passion is poaching, is out on a foray in the woods. When he comes across a dead hare he is about to pick it up when he is surprised by the forester. Harasta tries to distract the forester's attention by telling him proudly about his approaching wedding, he is going to marry Terynka. The forester assumes that his vixen has killed the hare. He hopes to catch her again and sets a trap.
The vixen's family has grown in the meantime. The little cubs rush out and dance around in the wood and notice the trap, and their parents warn them of the danger. The fox and his vixen are proud of their family and hope to have many more children. Harasta catches sight of the little vixen and immediately thinks what a good muff it would make for Terynka. The cunning little vixen leads him a dance, at the end of which he falls flat on his face on the ground. The foxes take advantage of this to lay into the poultry in his basket and he angrily shoots at them, killing the little vixen.
There are only two friends left to meet regularly at the inn now. The schoolmaster is in despair because Terynka is marrying someone else, the forester is out of humour because the little vixen has disappeared. Both of them miss the parson and are beginning to feel their age. The forester leaves and returns to the wood.
Back in the wood the forester remembers his youth and muses about the early days of his marriage. Unlike his friends, he does not wax sentimental. He can still dream and suddenly all his senses are aware of the beauties of nature which are all around him. He then sees in front of him again what he has been looking for all the time: his beloved little vixen. The little frog is also there again. But he realizes that this is the next generation and the generation after that, life goes on and on, where something has come to an end, something new is created. The forester understands the eternal cycle of nature. The wood around him is full of life ...
Translation: Susan Bollinger
© Bayerische Staatsoper