Those in the market for their first DVD of Jenufa could be well advised to start here. The forces are international without any Czechs in the cast, so authenticity most definitely goes by the wayside, but this version sounds more like a "conventional," standard-rep opera than it usually does. In some ways, that makes it more accessible. (I didn't much like Jenufa when I first heard it, but I must admit that it stuck with me.) The sounds from the pit are thicker and more integrated; there is less spontaneity and freshness, but in return we get what I think of as "a firm hand"--something to guide you through. Jenufa as an opera is hardly on the beaten path, so (for once) I don't actually mind being led.
So the conductor's role is to be a signpost, which isn't terribly interesting--but the cast is. Let's start with Eva Marton's Kostelnicka. She's a singer I have some familiarity with, as a terrific and physically beautiful Brünnhilde in the '80s and a decent though poorly acted Elsa. I had no idea her Czech was so good. She acts well, too, but don't expect the commitment of (say) Varnay--her Koselnicka is more cultured and polished, very much concerned with keeping up appearances and whatnot. She is one of the better Kostelnickas I have heard or seen.
Silvasti is definitely the best Laca I've heard since Beno Blachut took it on in the '50's. He's a Finn, so there can be no excuses about the difficulty of the language--and, in his case, there isn't. His Czech is quite good. His voice is almost too lyrical for the part. And though he looks just a touch old, his acting makes up for it. He is easily the best Laca on DVD--then again, he doesn't have much competition.
And now we come to the third primary player in the drama: Jenufa herself. Nina Stemme (another Wagner soprano, veteran of Brünnhilde and Isolde) acquits herself well vocally and physically, though I can imagine better acting contributions in places; she's at her best in Act 1, raving at the feckless teva. Lindskog (a Swede) plays teva almost perfectly right, though he misses the keen opportunism and cluelessness that Zídek brought to the role. (Seriously, listen to the Vogel recording. Its cast of male voices is practically legendary.) All the other roles are well-done, with kudos to Boesiger's delightfully airheaded Karolka. She didn't make me forget Lucia Popp, but she did make me smile, more than once.
I should probably mention that the staging isn't strictly traditional: the opera makes several references to stone ("Mother, my heart feels like it is being crushed by a stone" being one), and so stones show up in some way or another throughout the acts. It isn't all that distracting, and though the staging is generally sparse it suits the work well.
So, while this definitely shouldn't be the first Jenufa you hear (VOGEL! VOGEL!), you could definitely see worse. A lot of people have raved about the Glyndenbourne DVD, but to me it looks stuffy and drab, and the cast (aside, possibly, from Philip Langridge) isn't anywhere near as good. If I could have only one DVD of Jenufa, this would probably be it.