A splendid Jenůfa, one of Janáček's best-known operas, here directed for stage by Alvis Hermanis and conducted by Ludovic Morlot at La Monnaie / Die Munt in Brussels.
Premiered in Brno in 1904, Jenůfa was written after a play by Gabriela Preissová. It is a turning point in Janáček's stylisitic evolution: breaking off with the German operatic tradition, Janáček drew his inspiration from the natural inflexions of the spoken language, as well as from the rhythms and harmonies of the Czech folk repertoire. A genuine pioneer in the scientific study of the popular legacy, even before Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók, Leoš Janáček integrated in his own language the essence of the traditional music, without falling into pastiche or mere quotation. The particularity of his style lies in an extremely individual manner, as well as in the descriptive abilities of his musical language: popular reminiscences evoke a social frame, while the harshness of the orchestra depicts a greedy and brutal society.
Indeed, Jenůfa bears witness of the social violence within a small village in Moravia. Two brothers, Števa et Laca, ruin Jenůfa's life because of their crual and irresponsible behaviour. The former has seduced and abandoned the young woman, after making her pregnant. The latter, in love with Jenůfa, disfigures the young woman's face with his knife out of jealousy. The birth of the young child does not make anything better. Števa still refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Laca agrees to marry Jenůfa, though he does not like the idea of raising his brother's child. In order to comfort him, Kostelnička, Jenůfa's adoptive mother, tells him that the child is dead. A lie which leads to a sinister infanticide...
Jenůfa is not only a work that depicts the violence of a human drama stemming from the main characters' selfishness and the fear of a social opprobrium. It also bears witness of the composer's own distress at the time of composition, when he saw his daughter die from typhus. "I would bind Jenůfa with the black ribbon of the long illness, pain and sighing of my daughter Olga and my little boy Vladimir."
Next to la Monnaie's chief conductor Ludovic Morlot, the Latvian stage director and actor Alvis Hermanis, one of the leading figures on the European contemporary scene, here makes his début at la Monnaie.
Picture: © Forster/La Monnaie.
This opera was first broadcast on medici.tv in January 2014 and is now part of the medici.tv catalogue, available by subscription.
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