S,T,Bar,B; 8 children (of which 2 sing solo)
The opera is set once upon a time at a farmer’s cottage in a village somewhere in the snow. Children enter asking the mistress of the house, Tsu, to come and play with them. Waking up, the farmer, Yohyo, tells them she is not at home but offers to play with them himself. Tsu returns and they have supper. Next two acquaintances of Yohyo’s, Unzu and Sodo, enter and converse about the mysterious wife Yohyo has found and the cloth she weaves, which Unzu sells for a big profit. He believes it is the legendary Cloth of a Thousand Feathers, taken from a living heron. Sodo comments that if it really is this fabulous cloth they could sell it for a fortune. Yohyo returns and Sodo and Unzu try to persuade him to get them more cloth to sell. He tells them that Tsu says she can make no more, but agrees to ask her, and even threaten to leave her if she does not produce more. Unwillingly, Tsu agrees to weave just once more. Yohyo promises not to watch her at work – if he does all will be over between them – but following the example of Unzu and Sodo he peeps into the weaving room and sees a heron weaving its own feathers. The next day, Tsu appears with two cloths, one to sell, and the other for Yohyo to keep for ever, for since Yohyo looked into the room she must leave him … She bids him farewell and disappears. The children spot a heron flying in the sky. Yohyo, Sodo and Unzu see it too.