Tuesday, March 13, 2007

JANACEK : JENUFA


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 1st of September 2013 at 3.03 - 5.20 pm

JANÁCEK: Jenufa, an opera in three acts
Jenufa.......................... Kristine Opolais
Laca Klemeñ................ Christopher Ventris
Števa Buryja................ Pavol Breslik
Kostelnicka
Buryjovka.................... Michaela Martens
Grandmother
Buryjovka.................... Hanna Schwarz
Stárek........................... Cheyne Davidson
Mayor.......................... Lukas Jabobski
Mayor's wife................ Irène Friedli
Karolka........................ Ivana Rusko
Maid............................ Chloé Chavanon
Barena.......................... Herdís Anna Jónasdóttir
Jano.............................. Susanne Grossteiner
Aunt............................. Silvia Spassova
Zurich Opera Chorus, Zurich Opera House Orch/Fabio Luisi  
(recorded at the Zurich Opera House by Swiss Radio)

Jenůfa is an opera in three acts by Leoš Janáček to a Czech libretto by the composer, based on the play Její pastorkyňa by Gabriela Preissová. It was first performed at the Brno Theater, Brno, 21 January 1904.

INTRODUCTION
SYNOPSIS

The best way to get the words of an opera is from a recording (preferably a good old vinyl-disc set, with a twelve-inch square book and large print, rather than the compact disc miniature booklet with fine print).

Who's afraid of Leos Janácek (1854-1928)? His music should hold no terrors for us. The only opera of his that I have seen on stage (at the ENO in London) was The Excursions of Mr Broucek (to the moon, and then back to the 16th century), and this was a merry romp. From the House of the Dead (set in a Siberian prison camp, based on a novel by Dostoyevsky) was also available in London at the time (done by the Welsh opera company); but we chose something else; grimness and dissonance are not appealing, though this last work of Janácek also contains lyricism, humour, wisdom, and hope; at the end, one prisoner regains his freedom; I really must give this recording another listen; the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by a fellow-Australian I have always admired, namely Charles Mackerras.

I also have his Vec Makropulos (The Makropulos Affair, about a woman who lives hundreds of years without losing her beauty but finds life tiresome), and The Cunning Little Vixen (a fairy-tale opera); and also Kata Kabanova (Kaatya Kabanovaa), which includes a drowning in a river, as does Jenufa. The recording I have is not the outstanding version of Mackerras, but a performance from the Prague National Theatre, conducted by Bohumil Gregor.

In transcribing all these Czech names I have been forced to omit most of the diacritical marks. In the name Leos Janácek the s and c should have a v above them, indicating their pronunciation as sh and ch, while the á is a long vowel, and j = y, hence: Leosh Yanaachek. In the name Jenufa, the u has o above it, likewise indicating length, hence: Yenuufa. The really unique Czech consonant is found in the name Dvorák: the r has the v on it, and it is between a trilled r and sh (so, Devorshaak, like a devouring shark?).

Jenufa has a subtitle or alternative title (Her Step-daughter, or Foster-daughter if you prefer), which is the name of the play (by Gabriela Preissová) on which Janácek based his opera; the original title is better, because it reminds us that there are two main female characters. It could have been called The Maid of the Mill, because the whole setting is a mill. It takes place in Moravia (between Bohemia and Slovakia), and includes face-slashing, infanticide, and a lynching attempt by stoning to death. And yet we can say it has a happy ending, because even though Jenufa has brought shame on the family by having a child out of wedlock, fathered by her cousin S(h)teva, she marries the repentant slasher Laca, his half-brother and her step-cousin.

You need a genealogy of the characters to understand all the relationships, but most are deceased, and the surviving women are: Grandmother Burjya, the matriarch of them all and the owner of the mill; and her widowed daughter-in-law Kostelni(c)ka (her name shows that she is the sextoness of the church, though she is the one who drowns the baby for the sake of the family's honour); Jenufa is her adopted step-daughter, because she was the second wife of Jenufa's father.

Although this opera is described as warm and lyrical, it is not something to be used as background music (as I am doing with it while I write this!). I am not whistling the melodies yet, as I could with Bernstein's Candide yesterday. If you cannot find a libretto to follow, with translation, print out the story-synopsis provided by the NYMetropera.

Jenufa's monologue in Act 2, while her step-mother is out disposing of the baby, can be added to our collection of mad scenes: she is delirious, fearful, joyful, wistful, anxious, and feverish.

Obsolete data:
JANACEK'S JENUFA

New York Metropolitan Opera broadcast
Radio New Zealand Concert
http://www.radionz.co.nz/cfm/home
Sunday 18th of March 2007 at 3 pm
NYMet archive
http://archive.operainfo.org/broadcastStory
http://www.metoperafamily.org/operanews/issue/article.aspx?id=2000
Story with music
http://archive.operainfo.org/broadcast/operaStory.cgi?id=16&language=1&page=5
Cast
http://www.metoperafamily.org/operanews/issue/article.aspx?id=2016&issueID=82

Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has the leading role, with Anja Silja as the kind step-mother
Czech Libretto
http://www.karadar.com/Librettos/janacek_jenufa.html
But, as always from Karadar, no English translation.

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