and Music of Act III
gets the better of Harašta, the poacher.
meets her death.
pelt provides a muff for Terynka.
12. Life is
renewed in Sharp-Earsís cubs.
With the first
notes of the prelude one immediately senses
a new mood, a new atmosphere, the overtones
of tragedy: the relentless No. 113 on viola
and its grim,
compelling, fatalistic companion theme beginning
in a descending sequence.
A middle episode
begins with a lighter version of 114 (flute
and clarinet) but the mood quickly darkens
with a heavily dramatic presentation of the
threatening No. 114 followed by trumpets declaiming
No. 113 like a fanfare of doom.
GETS THE BETTER OF Harašta
At the Edge
of the Wood, in Autumn, at Noon
When the curtain
rises we see two men; one is the familiar
figure of the forester, gun on shoulder, coming
down the hill: the other is new to us he is
Harašta, a poultry dealer from Lisen, who
does quite a bit of poaching as a sideline.
He is a jovial, carefree fellow: a typical
Moravian peasant type. An empty basket is
strapped to his back: he slowly trudges up
the hill singing a song... a rather lugubrious
about a lover
who had to leave his sweetheart. "Why
not come along with me", the song runs
"and I will buy you a g-g-g-green (yodelling)
pleated skirt? You shall have a ring too,
and wherever I wander, you shall w-w-w-wander
yodelling) with me. "With the magic touch
which never fails him, Janáček turns No. 113
into a gay little waltz tune for strings which
he inserts between the verses of Haraštaís
plodding song as a short orchestral interlude.
greets Harašta somewhat brusquely. Harašta
replies that he would be all right if it was
not for his worries. "Canít imagine how
you get along without a wife!" continues
the forester, unbending a little. Harašta
assures him that he manages well enough although,
as a matter of fact, he is going to be married
soon (a skittish variation of 114), He takes
a swig from a bottle and confidentially tells
the forester that his bride-to-be is Terynka,
"the best girl in the world! "Terynka-we
remember-is the woman from whom the schoolmaster,
the parson, and-we suspect-the forester, have
been eating their hearts out. Terynka! The
forester can hardly believe his ears-the desirable
Terynka! (a slow, rather mysterious passage,
again, somewhat reminiscent of the opening
bars of the opera), the fabulous Terynka!
Terynka throwing herself away on this worthless
fellow! Harašta triumphantly assures him that
Terynka has indeed promised to be his wife.
Thinking it best not to pursue the subject
further, the forester says sternly that he
hopes Harašta has not been poaching. Harašta
pretends to be outraged at such a suggestion!
Poaching! No, no, no! thanks be to God he
has given that up long ago, although, he adds
mysteriously, perhaps he ought to, when only
a moment ago he found a dead hare lying on
the ground simply asking to be lifted. (A
new simpering slippery 6/8 figure on violas.)
But something inside him said: Donít do it,
Harašta! Donít touch it or youíll be sorry!
The forester, disbelieving him, handles him
roughly for a moment-"youíd better not
or youíll be sorry"-hurries over to examine
the dead hare. (Haraštaís shifty, shallow,
hypocritical character is admirably pictured
in the wailing chromatic syncopated theme
on oboe, clarinet and viola.) He also sees
the tell-tale tracks of a fox. Taking an iron
trap from his bag he sets it, remarking that
it is the work of Sharp-Ears all right: no
doubt sheíll be back soon to collect the trophy.
He sullenly turns into the wood while Harašta,
chuckling slyly to himself goes off in the
and the fox rush in, followed by their pack
of cubs who play around, gaily singing and
dancing. Their song is two verses of a gay
quasi-Moravian folk-song (note again the characteristic
augmented fourth) to nonsense words. Their
merry piping tune
with eight bars orchestral vamping, and, either
on voices or orchestra or both, continues
throughout the scene, piquantly scored with
celesta, harp and piccolo prominent, in polka
smells out at once that someone has picked
up the hare and then put it down again. She
sees the iron trap, sniffs at the chain, remarking
sarcastically that the old chap must take
them for a pack of fools. The cubs hop around
singing gaily "What a funny thing! What
a funny thing!" Even the youngest cub
can tell that it is a fox trap. "He must
be a dunce! He must be a dunce!" they
sneer in chorus.
sniffs stale tobacco and knows that it is
the forester who has laid the trap.
The cubs continue
their play in the background as the fox and
the vixen lie down together. He fondles her
lovingly, asking her how many children they
have and how many more they can expect to
tells him to speak more quietly: the forest
is full of animals and everyone knows what
terrible gossips they are (A of 117 in equal
quavers). "You are as lovely as ever",
the fox continues ardently. "Do tell
me how many more cubs we will have."
"Just wait till May comes", replies
Sharp-Ears in one of the loveliest phrases
of the opera, "Weíll talk about it again
in the springtime." "Iíll wait!
Iíll wait!" exclaims the eager fox: "Yes,
weíll talk about it again when May comes"
he rhapsodizes (to a passionate "Springtime"
phrase in the score).
At the same
time we hear, in the distance, the voice of
Harašta singing another rustic ballad. He
approaches, with the basket on his back, now
full of chickens. The fox and the vixen are
alarmed and become immediately on the alert.
Harašta stops suddenly when he sees the foxes
and puts his basket on the ground. He pulls
a poacherís folded gun from the basket and
stalks after the foxes. To act as a decoy
Sharp-Ears rubs across the path, limping awkwardly
as if her leg is injured. Harašta pursues
her, raising and lowering his gun according
to the clever manoeuvring of the vixen. As
she dodges, Sharp-Ears sings the eternal song
of all foxes, the ageless reproach of all
foxes against inhuman man-"Beat and kill.
. . just because Iím a fox!"
downhill after the vixen, stumbles, falls,
dashing his nose on the ground (suitably coarse
trombone noises). He curses, and Sharp-Ears-never
renowned for her polished manners-tells him
to look after his nose and sheíll look after
his basket. The cubs have already fallen on
the chickens and are devouring them greedily.
Rubbing his injured nose, Harašta wonders
how he will explain himself to Terynka (quick
waltz) as Sharp-Ears continues to scream at
him "Beat and kill . . . just because
Iím a fox!"
Full of rage
and fury Harašta fires his gun wildly among
the foxes, who scatter in a cloud of feathers.
But Sharp-Ears has been hit and she lies dying
on the ground. (Music of breathless excitement
and intense agitation rising to a powerful
climax: then silence.)
written a most moving Coda for the death of
his beloved Sharp-Ears ending with the ĎBeat
and kill" motif of the vixen thundering out
reproachfully in the orchestra.
EARS'S PELT PROVIDES A MUFF FOR TERYNKA
opens dramatically-resentfully-and has a variety
of contrasted motifs. Most important is No.
half of which chains off a sequence of new
motifs: (a) the bustling semiquaver pattern
which follows on immediately, (b) the plaintive
adagio middle-section and (c) the allegretto
seherzando theme when the curtain rises-and
is a bowling alley in Pásekís inn. There is
an unusual stillness about the place. The
forester is sitting, beside the schoolmaster.
The innkeeperís wife brings him a mug of beer.
He asks her where her husband is. "In
town", she replies; "We are busy
décorating the place, you know-havenít any
spare time now", and hastily retires.
The forester continues his conversation with
the schoolmaster, telling him he followed
the tracks of the foxes to their den but found
it abandoned. (The little foxesí dance-tune
appears in a wistful wholetone scale setting.)
Heíll catch up on Sharp-Ears yet and when
he does his old woman will get her muff and
the schoolmaster will get her tongue.
will help him when next he goes a-courting
among the sunflowers! But the brooding schoolmaster
is in no mood for jokes. He has just learned
that his Terynka is getting married today
(A of 120). The innkeeperís wife re-entering
adds that Terynka, too, has got a new muff.
The schoolmaster goes to the fence quickly,
wipes a tear from his eye and stares desolately
into the neighbouring garden. The forester
turns to the schoolmaster and grasps his hand
(A of 120 again, firmly, in equal notes).
Fancy a dry old stick like the schoolmaster
squeezing out a tear Never mind! he is much
better off without Terynka: he could never
have managed such a wanton! "He is missing
the parson", he confides to the innkeeperís
wife (violas softly play No. 119) and asks
her how the parson is getting on in his new
parish. She replies that he, too, feels lonely.
suddenly decides to leave and pays for his
beer: the schoolmaster, somewhat surprised,
asks him why he is leaving so early. Heíll
take a stroll through the woods, replies the
forester, then home. He cannot take his dog
for a walk any more: Lapák has bad feet and
cannot really walk far. Heís getting old like
the rest of them. Now heíd like to find a
quiet corner-put up his feet and have a nap.
falls as the forester departs.
12. LIFE IS
RENEWED IN SHARP-EARS'S CUBS
The last orchestral
interlude begins with the softly intoned regret-motif,
then switches to this energetic "earth"
which in turn
gives way to a hunting-horn fanfare.
The last scene
of the opera takes us back to the dark, forbidding
mood of Act I, Scene 1.
There is a
watery sunshine. The forester is climbing
the sloping path rather ponderously. He displays
a large mushroom he has just picked. It reminds
him of a girl he once knew who possessed a
similar chestnut brown head and was also tall
and slender (more hunting-horn fanfare music).
How many years have passed, he meditates wistfully,
since she and he, her lover, wandered here
in springtime? They also picked mushrooms
but ground the best ones underfoot for they
were blind with love. And the kisses they
gathered-they were without number.
He and his
wife were then newly-wed; both so young, both
so happy (another Ď; theme rather like the
very first bars of the opera. When the forester
reaches the crest of the hill he sits down
on a stone, resting his gun on his knee. But
for the buzzing flies it would be easy to
fall asleep (strange, mysterious, melting
chords tremolo). "Yet", he concludes
in a rare Right of poetic fancy, "I am
glad when after rain the sun shines through.
How lovely this forest is, where-deep in the
woods-new life is always stirring, and the
creatures of the forest begin life anew each
springtime answering the call of love."
(Broad, sweeping, grandioso diatonic music
with a touch of Richard Straussian romanticism
life will pour the bliss of honey-dew into
the blossoms of primroses, violets and anemones,
and people will bow their heads humbly, knowing
that they are surrounded by a divine bliss
which knows no end.
He falls asleep
with a smile on his lips (forest music, accentuated)
as animals from the undergrowth reappear as
at the beginning of the opera-dragon-fly,
woodpecker, owl, cricket, grasshopper-"all
are there", says the forester rousing
himself from his dream, "all except Sharp-Ears".
(The tune of the little foxes trips gaily
into the music, including the "vamping
"introductory bars.) A small fox-cub
runs up to him and he exclaims delightedly
that the vixen is here after all. A second
glance tells him that it is one of Sharp-Earsís
cubs who greets him. Wait till he catches
her! This time he will bring her up properly.
He stretches out a hand to catch the vixen
but, instead, catches a little frog. Can this
be the little frog which once jumped on to
his nose? "Hello! Itís you again, is
it? "he exclaims. "No, no",
squeaks the little frog, "that was my
grandfather. He used to . . . used to tell
me. . . ab-b-b about you" (a delightful
little solo in the tiny piping voice of the
baby frog). The forester, astonished at the
miraculous cycle of rebirth, falls contentedly
asleep and his gun drops to the ground.
crowd around, as the music gradually swells
to a wonderfully satisfying, harmonious conclusion.
Sharp Ears had died, but she lives on in her
cubs: youth, life, is eternally renewed. This
is the noble, pantheistic theme on which this
inspired Czech woodland symphony ends.
the story of Sharp-Ears the Vixen, I have
made no attempt to cross the humans with the
animals as seems to have been Janáčekís intention:
the badger who was thrown out of his den,
with the parson who, for apparently too heavy
drinking, has been transferred to another
parish: the querulous shrew who is the wife
of the forester, with the irritable and scandalized
owl: the superbly natural Sharp-Ears herself,
with the much-sought-after gypsy girl, the
mysterious and almost legendary Terynka.
I cannot see
how such parallels can add to the appreciation
of the charming story and the wonderfully
inspired music of the opera. One notes that
in the 1958 Brno Janáček Festival programme
of the opera, no mention is made at all of
these rather far-fetched symbols, nor is any
attempt now made to have the same singers
undertake the double roles of man and animals:
just imagine the tall and modest schoolmaster
trying to act a midge!
Max Brod accentuated
the symbolism to a quite incomprehensible
extent. The novel of Tesnohlidek, on the other
hand, contains no parallelism at all, and
it is surely better, clearer and more natural
to accept the humans and animals at their
own level, as they are. The rough and, at
heart, good-natured forester (although perhaps
not so good-intentioned towards Sharp-Ears
as some commentators would have us believe:
not only does he say that he would like to
make a muff for his wife from her pelt, but
he actually sets a trap for her and in other
ways would appear to wish her evil); the bashful
schoolmaster in love with an illusion; the
scandalized parson who is too fond of the
bottle; the cunning, shallow but humorous
and realistic poacher; the "healthy"
instincts of the two boys whose curiosity
leads them into cruelty; the harassed, shrewish
wife of the forester and all the wonderful
collection of delightful animals-the faithful
dog who has never known love, the scandal-mongering
owl and jay, the strutting cock, the dutiful
hens, the gruff, conceited badger, the innocent
baby frog, the devoted dragon-f y and all
the small fry of the forest-gnats, crickets,
squirrels. Above all, the fully revealed and
altogether loveable character of Sharp-Ears,
herself, growing from a naughty little vixen
into a responsible mother and wife, depicted
with deep understanding, humour, pathos, compassion,
tenderness and unerring sympathy in a score
abounding in a thousand delicate shades and
delineation of character, mood and fantasy,
by the almost 70-year-old composer.
had completed his score in March 1923, he
journeyed to Bratislava to hear Kátja Kabanová:
while staying for a few days at Bratislava
he conceived the idea of writing a symphony
on the River Danube. In the same ear he wrote
his first string quartet, the "Kreutzer
Sonata In the following year, his seventieth
birthday was celebrated in Brno and Prague
when the opera Sharp-Ears received its first
performance in Brno on the 6 December 1924,
again conducted by František Neumann and produced
by Ota Zítek. The work was warmly applauded
by the audience but the press was inclined
to be critical of certain aspects of the opera.