Oct 28, 2016 12:00 AM - Nov 17, 2016
A MASTERPIECE BY CZECH COMPOSER LEOŠ JANÁČEK AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA.
Opera, 1915 Broadway, NYC
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Jenůfa by composer Leoš Janáček takes place in a remote Moravian village in the last decades of the 19th century. Janáček’s focus on common people with real problems connects his work conceptually to what Puccini, Mascagni, and others were doing in the verismo operas of Italy at roughly the same time. World premiere: Brno Theater, Brno, 1904.
Among opera’s most psychologically astute dramas, Jenufa presents a believable world in which no one is entirely good or bad and in which spiritual growth comes from the hard lessons of real life. The story centers on two women in a village in Moravia (now in the Czech Republic): Jenufa and her stepmother, the Kostelnička (a term describing her office as the sacristan of the local church). Rich in human insight expressed in passionate, emotionally honest music, Jenufa has come to be regarded as one of the great operas of the 20th century.
Janáček’s harrowing tale stars Oksana Dyka in the title role, the victim of sin and hypocrisy in a rural village. The great Karita Mattila plays her stepmother, the Kostelnička, the moral guardian of the village but also its greatest threat. David Robertson conducts the first return of this riveting work in nearly a decade.
Sung in Czech with Met Titles in English, German and Spanish.
Born in rural Moravia, Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) studied in Brno and Prague and made a living as a teacher, organist, and choir director. Jenufa brought him fame late in life, leading to the most fertile period of his career, with other operas such as Kátˇa Kabanová and The Makropulos Case. The libretto for Jenufa is based on a successful Czech play, Her Stepdaughter, by Gabriela Preissová (1862–1946).
Production: Olivier Tambosi
Set Designer: Frank Philipp Schlössmann
Costume Designer: Frank Philipp Schlössmann
Lighting Designer: Max Keller
Composer: Leoš Janáček
The Buryja family is a troubled one. The two half-brothers, Števa and Laca, are at odds: handsome but irresponsible Števa has inherited most of the family property (notably a valuable mill), along with a favored position in the family’s affections. Laca is further depressed by the hopelessness of his love for Jenůfa, stepdaughter of the Kostelnička, the stern leader of the Moravian village in which they live. Jenůfa loves Števa and is pregnant by him, a fact still hidden from everyone else. Sensing that marriage has little part in Števa’s thoughts and fearing that her lover will be drafted, Jenůfa is on the verge of panic.
The Buryja mill. Jenůfa fears the results of the latest draft of the village men: if Števa is called into the army, he will not be able to marry her before her pregnancy becomes obvious. Grandmother Buryja scolds her for absent-mindedness, and Laca teases her remorselessly. Jano, a young shepherd boy whom Jenůfa has been teaching, runs in, excited that he can finally read, and Jenůfa promises to bring him a book. The mill foreman reprimands Laca for treating Jenůfa so heartlessly, provoking a fit of anger from Laca. Jenůfa is ecstatic when the foreman announces that Števa has not been drafted after all, but Laca is furious at this latest stroke of bad luck.Števa arrives drunk with the other recruits and is in the mood for dancing, which is abruptly halted by the Kostelnička. She withdraws permission for Števa and Jenůfa to marry until Števa proves he can remain sober for an entire year. Left alone, Jenůfa begs Števa to marry her as soon as possible. Grandmother Buryja interrupts them, and Števa runs off declaring that he will never abandon Jenůfa. When Laca approaches Jenůfa, an argument erupts. In frustration, he pulls out his knife; in the struggle her face is slashed. As Laca escapes, the foreman calls after him, shouting that Laca cut Jenůfa’s face on purpose.
The Kostelnička’s house, five months later. Learning of Jenůfa’s pregnancy, the Kostelnička has hidden her stepdaughter in her home and has told the villagers that she has sent Jenůfa to visit relatives in Vienna. Jenůfa’s baby is now a week old and the Kostelnička is ready to put her plan into effect: she will beg Števa to marry Jenůfa. Frantic with worry for the family’s reputation, she gives Jenůfa a sleeping potion. When Števa arrives, he assures the Kostelnička that he cares for Jenůfa but, now that her face is disfigured, he has no intention of marrying her; he has already become engaged to Karolka, the mayor’s daughter. The Kostelnička pleads with him, but he runs away, leaving her raging at him and the baby who has brought such shame to the family.When Laca arrives, the Kostelnička tells him about the baby. Before he can respond, she blurts out a terrible lie: the baby is dead. Laca is sent away, but promises to return. Left alone, the Kostelnička imagines what the villagers will say when they find out about her family’s disgrace. “I will take this child and give it back to God!” she cries. She wraps the baby in a shawl and runs out into the winter night. Jenůfa awakens, dazed from the sleeping potion. Unable to find the baby, she has a terrifying vision of him falling into a dark, icy place. As she urgently prays, the Kostelnička returns. She says that Jenůfa has slept for two days, during which time her baby died, and tells her stepdaughter that Števa has rejected her and that Laca wants to marry her. Laca returns and begs Jenůfa to accept him. She reluctantly agrees. The Kostelnička gives them her blessing and pronounces a violent curse on Števa, but is herself terrified as an icy wind blows through the house.
The mill, two months later. On the day of Jenůfa’s wedding to Laca, the Buryja family tries to be cheerful. Jenůfa, though, is sad, and the Kostelnička is nervous and withdrawn. When the family and guests go to admire Jenůfa’s trousseau, Laca assures Jenůfa of his love and she thanks him for his kindness and understanding. Laca tells her that he has even forgiven Števa and invited him and Karolka to the wedding. Števa and Karolka enter, the latter chattering brightly while Števa tries to control his discomfort. A group of village girls sing a wedding song to Jenůfa, and the betrothed couple kneels for Grandmother Buryja’s blessing.Suddenly there is a commotion outside. The shepherd Jano runs in with the news that some village men have found the frozen corpse of a baby. Terrified, the Kostelnička tries to stop Jenůfa from going to see the body, but Jenůfa runs away and returns almost immediately, screaming that the child was hers.The shocked villagers turn against her. “Stone her to death!” they shout. Laca tries to protect her against the villagers, but it is the Kostelnička who saves her stepdaughter. Declaring that she is the one who destroyed Jenůfa’s baby, she describes how she murdered the child by thrusting it under the river ice. She kneels at Jenůfa’s feet, and to everyone’s surprise, Jenůfa goes to her and helps her up. She understands that the Kostelnička killed the child out of love for her stepdaughter. Jenůfa begs the villagers to give the Kostelnička time to make her own peace with God. The mayor leads the Kostelnička away.When they are alone Jenůfa tells Laca he should not marry a woman as disgraced as she. Laca, though, remains firm: “Nothing matters if you are with me.” —Yveta Synek Graff and Robert T. Jones –
The Metropolitan Opera, 1915 Broadway, NYC
From: Oct 28, 2016 12:00 AM
To: Nov 17, 2016