A Glynebourne production of Leos Janacek's opera. Designed by Tobias Hoheise. Lead parts sung by Roberta Alexander and Anja Silja.
Janacek's masterpiece Jenufa
, captured in this 1989 Glyndebourne Festival Opera production, is among the most revived modernist works. Compared with much grand opera, the story of one woman's struggle to rise free from social constraints at a terrible cost is remarkably poignant, credible and accessible. Scenes are short and intense. The music shimmers with Janacek's characteristic blend of sweetness and sharp dissonance. His men are damaged and angry; his women kick against the expectations of convention. Tragedy is inevitable, but here, unusually, hope triumphs. In the title role, Roberta Alexander is utterly convincing as the stepdaughter of the Kostelnicka Buryja, placing her love and trust in the wrong man with dire consequences. As the Kostelnicka, Anja Silja turns in an equally towering performance, unravelling with the awful consequences of her pragmatism. Alexander's fluid soprano reveals the extraordinary beauty of some of Janacek's finest arias: the moment when she becomes supernaturally aware of her baby's fate--it's "as if death was peering into the house!"--and is actually singing prayers for its soul is quite overwhelming. This Jenufa
is sung splendidly; a revelation of the essential humanity which lurks at the heart of the greatest operas.
On the DVD: This production was filmed for Channel 4 and has all the hallmarks of a 1980s television broadcast: standard 4:3 picture format which limits the impact of Tobias Hoheisel's magnificent expressionistic set; PCM stereo which somewhat dulls Andrew Davis' sterling, powerful work at the helm of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (although the principal singers shine through); poor subtitles; and static freeze-frame links between scenes. As a record of an important production, though, it suffices. --Piers Ford