Janácek: Jenufa

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Jenufa
PERFORMER: Amanda Roocroft, Deborah Polaski, Miroslav Dvorsky´ et al ; Chorus & Orchestra of the Teatro Real/Ivor Bolton; dir. Stéphane Braunschweig (Teatro Real, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: Opus Arte DVD: OA 1055D; Opus Arte Blu-ray: OABD 7089D


Family trees in opera can be confusing, just think of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Jenufa, the conventional title of Janáˇcek’s most searing opera, might seem simple by comparison, until you consider its original title: Her Foster Daughter. This astonishing drama is as much about the Kostelnicka, who cares so passionately for her ward that she drowns Jen∞fa’s illegitimate daughter. Crucial to any production are the central figures, more so than the large extended family. This is where Stéphane Braunschweig’s production scores well. The colouring is predominantly dark, even at the radiant end of the work, but there is little to distract from the superb central performances.

Amanda Roocroft is a remarkable Jen∞fa, fragile, a little silly, as she should be, but hugely emotionally engaged. She is matched by Miroslav Dvorsk´y’s Laca – rarely have I seen a more committed performance of this complex and anguished role. Mette Ejsing, as the tortured grandmother, and Nikolai Schukoff, as the terminally weak Steva, are splendid. Deborah Polaski’s magnificent interpretation of the Kostelnicka runs the full gamut from imperiousness to abject terror.


Ivor Bolton’s conducting is well paced, but the ends of both Acts I and II seem slightly underpowered. The wind players throw themselves into the more pungent, folk-inspired parts, but the strings could have injected more urgency into the start of the opera. The production is well filmed, but poor dubbing robs the experience of immediacy. The Blu-ray extras are trifling. Jan Smaczny