author Leoš Janáček
conductor Gabriel Chmura
director Alvis Hermanis
The festival will this time present Jenůfa in a production by a group from Poznan’s Teatr Wielki, one of the leading Polish opera ensembles with more than one hundred years of history behind it. The performed work is a famous version originally created for La Monnaie in Brussels by Lithuanian director and playwright Alvis Hermanis, who is one of the leading personalities of the contemporary European theatre scene. The impressive production is artistically inspired and stylized in the 1st and 3rd acts into opulent scenes á la Alfons Mucha, with a choir in rich folk costumes. This makes the contrast presented by the second act all the greater, with spectators being carried back to the 1960s and the communist era, where the lavish stylization is abandoned for realistic acting in the moments of culminating tragedy.
Jenůfa is one of Janáček´s most famous works. It has its roots in a realistic drama by G. Preissová (1862–1946), which Janáček adapted himself into the form of an opera libretto. Even though he had to shorten the text of the drama significantly, he managed to heighten the impact of this tragic story from rural Moravia. The protagonists include wasteful and unstable Števa, fierce Laca, who hides a heart of gold, and most of all the unrelenting Kostelnička, whose efforts to maintain her position and respect in the village community lead her to murder the child of Jenůfa. Janáček (1854–1928) captured the individual characters in a masterful, condensed drama that sends chills down one´s spine while simultaneously awakening compassion and understanding within us. It took Janáček nearly nine years to create Jenůfa. He finished the first act of the opera in 1897, while the second and the third were created under circumstances that were extremely tragic for the Janáček family. In 1902, the composer´s daughter Olga became seriously ill during a visit to Janáček´s brother in Saint Petersburg. Janáček completed the second act of the opera after Olga´s return home, and the third immediately before her death in February 1903. He dedicated Jenůfa to the memory of his daughter. Janáček wanted the premiere of the opera to be at the National Theatre in Prague, but he was refused with the explanation that the opera wasn´t suitable for performance on a leading Czech stage. The premiere thus took place in Brno on 21st January 1904, and it was an incredible success. It took until 1915 to persuade the management of the Prague theatre and the conductor Karel Kovařovic to perform Jenůfa. However, after the very successful Prague premiere on 26. 5. 1916, Janáček finally because successful as a composer not only in the Czech environment but also world-wide.