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Janácek: Jenufa CD

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Product details

  • Performer: Stepánka Jelínková, Beno Blachut, Marta Krásová, Ivo Zídek
  • Orchestra: Prague National Theatre Chorus
  • Conductor: Jaroslav Vogel
  • Composer: Leos Janácek
  • Audio CD (30 July 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Supraphon
  • ASIN: B000023YX9
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 613,030 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

SUP 3331; SUPRAPHON - Cecoslovacchia; Classica Lirica

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Evans on 11 Jan 2012
Format: Audio CD
Forget Mackerras in Janacek operas and go for the Czech versions as performed in Prague. They know how to sing and play their own music. This is a good alternative to the excellent Jilek verion with Benackova. Excellent singing and plenty of forward momentum.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Forget Mackerras, start here... 11 July 2010
By C. Lunde - Published on
Format: Audio CD
"Jen'fa" was written in 1902, one year after "Rusalka"--so it just slips under the wire for being a 20th century work. It's a little rough and spiky--there's this kind of love quadrangle going on, and in the end Jen'fa's stepmother drowns her baby. It serves as sort of a dark sister opera to "The Bartered Bride": a lot of the same character types are present, but they're put into a pressure cooker and programmed to explode. This version was smoothed out by Kava'ovic (another composer) at certain points, and (having heard other versions) I actually like a lot of his alterations--something similar happened with "Z Mrtvého Domu," where I liked Gregor's softer version better than Mackerras's "authentic" (really?) version. The cast here is also incredible: almost all of them are big-name stars from Prague's National Theater, and they definitely deserve their status.

Jen'fa is in love with Števa (a more-excellent-than-usual Ivo Zídek), and he knocks her up. But Jen'fa's stepmother (the Kostelni'ka) gets mad at him for being drunk, and forbids him from marrying Jen'fa for a year. (Oh, they're also cousins. That's a little gross.) You see, it's like this: the old miller had two sons, Buryja and Tomás. As they say in the Bible *grin*, Kleme', some random guy we never hear about, begets Laca and then dies. Laca's mother marries Buryja (if you're getting "Hamlet" flashbacks, well--you should be. :) ). Buryja begets Števa. Tomás marries a woman named Jen'fa, and to confuse us they have a daughter of the same name who is the opera's heroine. The first Jen'fa dies, and Tomás remarries the sextoness, called the Kostelni'ka in Czech. When Tomás dies, the Kostelni'ka raises little Jen'fa on her own. Then the opera starts.

Ok. So Jen'fa the younger is in love with Števa. Števa is a womanizer and a wastrel, in love with no one but himself; his music has a dollop of Wagner's Loge in it. He takes advantage of Jen'fa's love, and pretends to love her because she is pretty. Laca (pronounced "Latsa" with the "c" in this position, played by the redoubtable Beno Blachut), Števa's half-brother, is *actually* in love with Jen'fa, even though she kind of hates him.

There's some vague war going on, and Jen'fa fears that Števa will be conscripted--if he is, they can't get married before her pregnancy starts to show. Of course, he isn't conscripted, and he comes to Jen'fa with the good news and a drunken entourage in tow. Everyone starts dancing about and partying. Laca spends most of this time in a corner, angry, brooding, the strings roiling along with him. He sharpens a knife on a whetstone. The Kostelni'ka barges in on the party and is disgusted, so she forbids Števa from marrying Jen'fa for a full year until he sobers up. (At this point, only Števa and Jen'fa know about the pregnancy.) Jen'fa pleads with her stepmother to reconsider and forgive Števa for being drunk and whatnot, but of course the Kostelni'ka doesn't. The party breaks up, and nearly everyone leaves.

Števa reassures Jen'fa that he will never leave her, since she's the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, and he goes away. Laca emerges from his corner, sharpened knife in hand, and he mocks her, saying that all Števa sees in her is her pretty face, and that as soon as her looks fade Števa will leave her. (He's right, but that doesn't excuse what he does next.) He tries to grab her, and when he does the knife cuts her face. It isn't clear from the libretto if this was an accident or not, but even if it was it was unconsciously planned.

Števa does indeed leave her as soon as he sees the cut on her face. Undone, Jen'fa tells her stepmother about the pregnancy, and the Kostelni'ka hides her away in the house for five months, telling everyone that she has gone to Vienna to work. Števa never comes by the house, not once in five months; Laca comes nearly every day because he wants to apologize. Anyway, Jen'fa finally has her baby, and she names him Števa (of course). Jen'fa becomes very ill. Her stepmother sends for Števa the father, because she figures he's at least responsible enough to take care of his child and marry Jen'fa now that he's put her (and the baby) in such a compromising postion. Too late: Števa is afraid of Jen'fa, and is engaged to the Mayor's daughter. Jen'fa starts talking in her sickness, and Števa panics and runs away. Laca sees Števa leave, and figures that means that Jen'fa's back from Vienna.

The Kostelni'ka's really desperate now, so she just breaks down and tells Laca everything. Laca is stunned, and asks, "Do you really expect me to accept my brother's baby?" The Kostelni'ka panics and tells him the baby is dead. Laca says that he'll marry Jen'fa if she'll have him, and that he's willing to forgive her if she forgives him.

Now the Kostelni'ka has to make her lie true, so while Jen'fa is sleeping she drowns the baby by throwing it in a hole in the icy river. When Jen'fa wakes up, her stepmother tells her she's been delirious, and that her baby's been dead for two days. Jen'fa and Laca reconcile with one another, and after three months (an act separation) we get to the wedding day. They even manage to forgive Števa in that time, so he comes to the wedding with his fiancee. Then one of the village children finds the dead baby in the river, and the Kostelni'ka confesses her crime and is led off to jail. Števa's fiancee is none too happy about this whole mess, and she says she'll never marry him. Laca and Jen'fa are left alone. The ending is ambiguous--not quite happy, not quite sad--because no matter what Jen'fa has to deal with the consequences of all that's happened. You know you're in trouble when the man who cut your face and the woman who drowned your baby are the only ones in your corner...

If you're interested in opera that's slightly off the beaten path, this is it. And this recording (provided you're not some kind of purist who thinks the composer's word is always law) is one made by authentic Czech forces in the '50s, and is one of the most grippingly dramatic versions I have ever heard of this harrowingly raw piece of work. Well worth your ear time.
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