Premiere 3. 10. 2020, 7 pm
Janáček Opera, National Theatre Brno, in cooperation with London´s Royal Opera House (Covent Garden)
Repeat performance on 5. 10. 2020, 19:00
The beautiful Jenůfa waits, fearing that her beloved Števa has been taken off to join the army. She is expecting his child, and his departure would jeopardise the forthcoming marriage. Števa’s stepbrother Laca also carries a flame for Jenůfa and asks her about Števa. The delighted Števa arrives with his friends and musicians at the mill – he has not been taken away and, together with the other recruits, celebrates their good fortune with drink. Jenůfa’s strict guardian Kostelnička sees the riotous company with Števa and announces in front of them all that she would only give her consent to a marriage between Jenůfa and Števa after a probation year, during which Števa would not be allowed to drink. Laca convinces Jenůfa that Števa loves her only because of her beauty, and during the argument he cuts her face with a knife.
In fear of disgrace, Kostelnička hides Jenůfa in her home and claims to everybody that she has left for Vienna. In the meantime, Jenůfa has given birth to a son. Whilst Jenůfa is sleeping, Kostelnička humbles herself before Števa and begs him to marry Jenůfa. For Števa, however, Jenůfa’s scarred face has rendered her ugly, and besides, he is already engaged to the Mayor’s daughter. Laca arrives and asks Kostelnička to hand over Jenůfa to him. When Kostelnička gives away the secret to him that Jenůfa has given birth to Števa’s child, he is shocked. Seeing his doubts, Kostelnička in desperation lies that the child died immediately after the birth. As soon as Laca leaves, Kostelnička drowns the child in an icy river and convinces Jenůfa that she has slept for several days in a fever and the little boy has died in the meantime. The devastated Jenůfa agrees to a marriage with Laca.
During the preparations for the wedding between Jenůfa and Laca the news breaks out that a dead child has been found in the river. Jenůfa recognises her little boy’s bonnet and the suspicion of murder falls upon her. Kostelnička admits her crime in front of the assembled guests. Before the Mayor leads her off to court, Jenůfa forgives her, for she understands that she did it out of love for her. Jenůfa does not believe that Laca would still want her and sends him away. However, Laca wants to stay by her side and promises that he will stay with her even when times are bad. Jenůfa realises that she has found her true love “and God is pleased with it”.
Conductor: Robert Kružík
Stage Director: Claus Guth
Set Design: Michael Levine
Costume Design: Gesine Völlm
Projections: Roland Horvath & Carmen Zimmerman (‘rocafilm’)
Choreography: Teresa Rotemberg
Assistant Stage Director: Axel Weidauer
Laca Klemeň: Jaroslav Březina
Števa Buryja: Richard Samek
Kostelnička Buryjovka: Karita Mattila
Jenůfa: Jana Šrejma Kačírková
Jenůfa is one of Janáček´s most famous works and was a significant turning point in his artistic career. It has almost never left the repertoire of the Brno opera ensemble since its creation in 1904. However, the festival will feature a special production from London´s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, directed by the excellent Claus Guth. It will be performed here by the orchestra and choir of the Janáček Opera, National Theatre Brno, with leading Czech soloist and soprano Karita Mattila in the role of Kostelnička. Jenůfa will return to the Royal Opera House in March 2020, after almost twenty years, as part of a cycle of Janáček productions that started three years ago. Claus Guth, whose career as an opera director began in 1998 at the Salzburg festival, is highly sought-after these days. He collaborates with the Bayreuth Festival, La Scala in Milan, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Real in Madrid and other leading theatres. Even though he has directed works ranging from Baroque operas up to classic pieces from the 19th century, his primarily focuses on 20th century operas and contemporary authors.
Jenůfa had its beginnings in a realistic drama penned by G. Preissová (1862-1946), which the composer himself adapted into the form of an opera libretto. Even though Janáček shortened the text of the drama significantly, he managed to make the tragic impact of the story from a Moravian village even deeper. The prodigal and unstable Števa, the stern but kind-hearted Laca and above all the relentless Kostelnička, whose efforts to maintain her position and respect in the village community leads her to murder the child of her foster daughter Jenůfa – these are the characters captured by Janáček in a masterful and dramatic portrait that sends chills down one´s spine while simultaneously awakening feelings of compassion and understanding.
The work on Jenůfa took Janáček nearly nine years. He completed the first act of the opera in 1897, while the second and third were created under circumstances that were greatly tragic for Janáček´s family. In 1902 the composer´s daughter Olga became seriously ill during a visit to Janáček´s brother in St. Petersburg. Janáček completed the second act of the opera after Olga´s return and the third shortly before her death in February 1903. He dedicated Jenůfa to her memory. Janáček wanted to entrust the premiere of the opera to the Prague National Theatre but he was refused with the words that the opera was not suitable to be shown on a leading Czech stage. The first performance thus took place in Brno on 21.1.1904 and was unusually successful. It was not until 1915 that the management of the Prague theatre and conductor Karel Kovařovic were finally persuaded to perform Jenůfa. After a very well-received Prague premiere in 1916, a performance followed in Vienna and Janáček finally found success as a composer not only in the Czech Republic but also worldwide.
Autor: Patricie Částková