Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I have checked out a DVD from Glyndebourne of Leoš Janáček's Jenufa. This is a restoration to the original score of 1904, very much the preferred version now. It is an opera with two great roles for soprano, one Jenufa, a spinto soprano and the other her step mother, called the Kostelnicka , a true Wagnerian. The men are relatively unimportant.

The story is everywoman's story. Jenůfa has had a baby and been abandoned by her lover who wishes to marry the mayor's daughter. Mother sees her daughter's future and her own as one of shame and isolation, and kills the baby.

We are used to modern and don't hear Wagner, Puccini or Debussy in this original music. It is post-romantic and fresh all at once. The melodies and rhythms are quaint and attractive while still operatic.

This video is very beautiful. Video is more intimate than anything experienced in the opera house.

Tip number 43 on how to write a hit opera: be sure someone has a mad scene. This works for Jenůfa quite as well as it does for Lucia or La Sonnambula. I am thinking "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" would make a fine opera--instead of a mad scene, we would have an entirely mad opera.

I digress. The mother holds a religious office and performs christenings [female sacristan, so called because she tended the village church--thank you internet]. The minister in the wedding scene is also a woman. Just as Laca and Jenůfa are married the dead baby is found.

Roberta Alexander is Jenůfa. Anja Silja is mother. The singing is wonderful. Anja Silja has here a harsh edge to her tone, but she is so wonderfully intense that the entire performance is fabulous, majestic and deeply emotional. Roberta Alexander rises to meet her. Philip Langridge is a beautiful Laca.

Highly recommended.

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