Don’t you come home spreading socialism,” the Vixen is told. Welsh National Opera must have planned this revival of their much-loved production of Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen years ago, but it hasn’t half proved to be timely.

Janáček intended this chronicle of the rural seasons to be a socio-political commentary too: “We’re just an egg production line,” announces a splendidly cackling cacophony of overworked hens.

Details have changed since WNO’s Vixen last visited Oxford. For instance, the opera is now sung in its original Czech with English surtitles – it’s extraordinary to remember now that WNO for long thought that surtitling operas to make them more intelligible was somehow beneath them. But gloriously the same is Maria Björnson’s atmospheric, sunny set, complete with its undulating, grassy fields – the slopes are very useful for both humans and animals to roll down in the production’s many light-hearted scenes.

The set perfectly compliments Janáček’s rolling, yet precisely detailed score: the behaviours and movements of different animals and birds are often wittily characterised by the instrumentation. WNO’s top-notch orchestra is key to the production, and the players plainly relish the music – as does their Czech conductor Tomáš Hanus, who at times seemed about to explode with enthusiasm.

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The large orchestra, and the New Theatre’s lack of a proper pit in which to house it, does sometimes make the singing seem a bit distant. But in an opera that relies as much on visual action and spectacle as it does on words this doesn’t really matter, especially as the overall sound is so ravishing. Anyway the words are plainly visible on the surtitles.

“Have you ever made love?” the Fox asks the Vixen almost the first time they meet. This is the countryside, and there’s no time to time to waste – quick as a flash they vanish into a lair, with a fleet of bouncy cubs emerging into the sunlight soon afterwards (delightfully realised by young cast members working to Elaine Tyler-Hall’s fluid choreography).

Mind you, the Fox does have one or two further questions before the couple get down to business: “Do you smoke?” he asks, before adding pointedly: “Do you like rabbit?”

Aoife Miskelly sparkles as the Vixen – neither the athletic vocal leaps demanded by Janáček’s score nor the Czech language seem to faze her. Her relationship with the Fox (Lucia Cervoni, also excellent) is touchingly portrayed, and quite how she manages to vanish off one side of the New Theatre’s wide stage and reappear microseconds later on the opposite side is quite beyond me. Among the human characters, Claudio Otelli is an outstanding Forester.

This nearly 40-year-old production from Oxford-born David Pountney marks his recent departure as WNO’s artistic director. It polishes up magnificently.