Leos Janacek (1854 – 1928)
Opera in three acts
Libretto by Leos Janacek after a drama by Gabriela Preissová
First staged on 21. January, 1904 in Brno
Premiere at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 4. March, 2012
In Czech language with German surtitles
|Stage design||Dirk Becker|
|Costume design||Judith Weihrauch|
|Light design||Bernd Purkrabek|
|Chorus master||William Spaulding|
|Grandmother Buryja||Hanna Schwarz|
|Laca Klemen||Will Hartmann|
|Steva Buryja||Ladislav Elgr|
|Mill foreman||Simon Pauly|
|The mayor's wife||Ronnita Miller|
|Farm girl||Fionnuala McCarthy|
|Chorus||Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin|
|Orchestra||Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin|
Strictures and bigotry, tradition and control… rural life in a Moravian village smouldering under a burning glass. We follow the fortunes of the characters through the changing of the seasons, are witness to a sweltering summer followed by a brutal winter. In early spring we are presented with a happy occasion that is soon soured. The tragic wedding ends in a confession of guilt and reveals Leos Janácek as a humanist. Violence and scandal, infanticide, guilt and atonement: these are the aspects of the human condition that the composer Janácek - he of the volatile temperament, who had fallen out of favour in the eyes his compatriots for belittling the achievements of Smetana - is keen to lay bare to his audiences.
With JENUFA he is risking musical and stylistic isolation. Which composer has ever clung so tenaciously to arias and repetitive movements, as if Wagner had never existed? Who was able to marry them so naturally with the emerging veristic forms? Unusual, too, was Janácek’s basing of his opera on a work of prose – Gabriela Preissová’s Její pastorkyna [Her protégée] – always with the intention of uncovering the core characteristics of his figures, of depicting their personalities, their individual ways of speaking, in exaggerated detail. For Janácek, to capture the lilt and timbres of his Moravian homeland was to make a »life drawing in musical form«.
The deserved plaudits for JENUFA were a long time coming. After the premiere in Brünn in 1904 the opera went through period of revision and was performed only rarely, in Prague as late as 1916. Max Brod saw a performance in the National Theatre and afterwards penned a fiery appeal for »the prosperity of Czech opera«, published in the Berlin Weltbühne. Shortly afterwards Brod was woken on a Sunday morning by Leos Janácek, who persuaded him to translate JENUFA into German. The exhortation was doubtless a last ditch attempt to rustle up some interest among a wider public for his audacious work, with the help of his famous ally and advocate. The plan worked. After performances in Vienna and Cologne in 1918 the opera premiered in Berlin in 1924. From Berlin; JENUFA went on to the opera houses of the world.
Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance