This edition of Das schlaue Füchslein (The Cunning Little Vixen) has been made by comparing all the relevant surviving sources and establishing a version of the work that comes nearest to the composer’s intention.
The new edition, which was edited by Jirí Zahrádka, is thus based above all on of the version given at the première in Brno in 1924, including František Neumann’s (the conductor) fully elaborated, detailed dynamics. In cases where several minor changes in the Prague version appear to be justified, they were considered in the new edition. The New Critical Edition of the opera includes the full score, the complete orchestra material, as well as the piano vocal score and choir score.
The tale of the free-thinking and crafty vixen Bystrouška goes back to the 1890s. In the beginning were the tiny sketches of the painter and forester Stanislav Lolek (1873–1936), a distinguished landscape artist. The story of Bystrouška was serialized in Lidové noviny from 7 April to 23 June 1920 and had a huge success. The merry and immediately accessible drawings with a witty and topical text found a readership throughout the entire social spectrum. It is certainly true that Janácek began considering composing an opera on this theme since he acquired cuttings of all the episodes in Lidové noviny. And in fact, as soon as Janácek completed the work on Katja Kabanova he immediately started on Das schlaue Füchslein. The dates on the autograph show that he began composition as early as January 1922. The author of the literary model Tesnohlídek got the news only indirectly that Janácek wanted to compose an opera on his text. The composer himself invited him to come and see him at the time when he was already working on the opera.
Meanwhile Janácek composed, and started out on his study of nature to a whole series of bird notations – of thrushes, sparrows, finches and blackbirds. He wrote down notations for doves, a little toad, and a frog with the instrumental comment ‘like a xylophone’. He also noticed animals and took down in his notebook his impressions of walks in the game reserve, where the forester even tracked down a vixen’s den with young so that the composer could observe and study them. No wonder that several of Janácek’s newspaper reviews in Lidové noviny in the years 1921– 1922 had animal motifs.
Meanwhile frantic negotiations broke out over who would publish the composer’s latest work. As in the case of Jenufa, Die Ausflüge des Herrn Broucek and Katja Kabanova, interest was shown essentially by two publishers: Hudební matice in Prague and Universal Edition in Vienna. The first to approach the composer was Hudební matice, but, as before, Janácek used this offer rather as a tactic to firm up his dealings with Universal Edition. The contract with Universal Edition was signed between March and April 1924.
The celebrated world première of the opera Príhody lišky Bystroušky (Die Abenteuer des Füchsleins Schlaukopf) took place in the Brno theatre Na Hradbách on 6 November 1924. The reception was tremendous and the composer himself was happy with the staging by Ota Zítek and the set design by Eduard Milén (who also designed the cover of the piano vocal score).
The composer himself characterized the opera as a forest idyll, one that would awaken the notion of the unity of life – both human and animal.