Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Hens, the Cock, and the Operatic Fox: Vulpine “Voice” in Janáček’s Příhody lišky Bystroušky


Leoš Janáček’s 1924 opera Příhody liškyBystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen) epitomizes the musical “animal play,” a dramatic form wherein the presence of nonhuman animals indexes non-seriousness, whimsicality, and childishness. Bystrouška situates its titular fox within a folkloric tradition, deriving stereotypes from Aesopian and Reynardian “animal fable.” I contend that such performances of foxiness are necessarily zoopolitical in that they characterize a group traditionally excluded from the “political community of humans” (Ludueña 2010). Like other problematic performances of “Others,” musical depictions of foxes rely on preexisting notions of species,and often exoticize, infantilize, and generalize their subjects. Following literary scholar Susan McHugh’s call to construct a proper “narrative ethology” to investigate how “forms of representation matter to the development oftheories of species life” (McHugh 2011), I argue for thes serious examination of how musical representation might harm those we presume to voice.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View