Jenůfa

Janáček Jenůfa opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2009 by Stéphane Braunschweig at the Teatro Real Madrid. Stars Amanda Roocroft (Jenůfa), Deborah Polaski (Kostelnička), Miroslav Dvorský (Laca Klemeň), Nikolai Schukoff (Števa Buryja), Mette Ejsing (Grandma Buryjovka), Károly Szemerédy (Mill Foreman), Sandra Ferrández (Barena), Miguel Sola (The Mayor), Marta Mathéu (Mayor's Wife), Marta Ubieta (Karolka), María José Suárez (Herdswoman), Elena Poesina (Jano), and Marina Makhmoutova (Aunt). Ivor Bolton conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real (Chorus Master Perter Burian). Sets by Stéphane Braunschweig; costumes by Thibault Vancraenenbroeck; lighting by Marion Hewlett; directed for TV by Ángel Luis Ramírez. Music Producer was James Whitbourn; Executive Producer was Ângela Âlvarez Rilla. Sung in Czech with subtitles in English, French, German, and Spanish. Released  2011, disc has 5.1 dts Master Audio. Grade: A+

The real name of this opera in English is Her Step-Daughter, but everyone now just calls it Jenůfa. The riveting story is not well known, so I'll not spoil it here by going through the plot in detail. The tale is about a small group of people who are related in ways that could be confusing if you don't have the back story. So I first will give you a family tree (based on one printed in the keepcase booklet). Then I'll and show you screenshots of the main characters plus some random views. This background will help you get on board fast if you are watching Jenůfa for the first time.

Grandpa Buryjovka owned the village mill. When he died, his widow, Grandma Buryjovka (Mette Ejsing), had the right to live on the mill property for the rest of her life with a pension. She is a compassionate, practical woman:

Grandpa Buryjovka's death passed the mill to the two Buryja sons: an elder son (not named) and the younger son Tomás. It appears the elder son bought out Tomás, who wanted to have more spending money.

The elder Buryja son married a widow named Klemeň who had a son named Laca Klemeň. Then the elder Buryja son had a son with widow Klemeň named Števa Buryja.  Soon widow Klemeň died.  Laca grew up as an unappreciated stepson. Laca and Števa were half brothers because they had the same mother. When the elder Buryja son died, Števa inherited the entire mill and Laca inherited a little money that was spent, I surmise, on his education. Laca was a decent chap, but neither wealthy nor handsome. Here Laca (Miroslav Dvorský) complains:

In contrast to Laca, Števa (Nikolai Schukoff) was both wealthy and handsome. Below we see him in his uniform as a reserve soldier:

Now let's turn our attention to the other branch of the family. Tomás Buryja married an unnamed woman and they had a daughter named Jenůfa (Amanda Roocroft). Jenůfa was beautiful. Here's the opening scene of the opera with Jenůfa praying:

Jenůfa's mom died when Jenůfa was young. Tomás then married Petrona Slomkova. Petrona was The Kostelnička (sacrasan) at the village church, an important office in the village because she was responsible for the church building and its contents. Petrona, a severe and responsible type, was called "Kostelnička" by everyone; she was much concerned with her reputation in the village. The Kostelnička was dismayed as she watched her husband Thomás drink himself to death with the money he got from his share of the mill.  Childless herself, the Kostelnička came to view Jenůfa as the light of her life, even though she was only a step-child. Meet Kostelnička (Deborah Polaski):

Števa and Jenůfa were grandchildren of Grandma Buryjovka and first cousins. Jenůfa is of marriageable age. You may not be too surprised to learn that both Laca and Števa are in love with her.

Now for some random screenshots. Some village girls:

The foreman at the mill (Károly Szemerédy):

Kalrolka (Marta Ubieta) and her parents:

Jenůfa teaches the herdswoman (María José Suárez) how to read:

Random screenshots:

The picture quality and content is excellent. Bolton gets an exciting performance out of the orchestra that is well recorded. There is fine directing by Stéphane Braunschweig plus excellent singing and acting by all. The forever-young-looking Amanda Roocroft as Janůfa and Deborah Polaski as Kostelnička are especially compelling.

This is an emotionally searing production of Janáček's first opera. There's a lot in the plot that I haven't revealed. I watched this cold; from after about 5 minutes in, my mouth was hanging open until the final curtain.  The suspense is terrific as Janáček doesn't foreshadow what fate holds in store for Janůfa. If you get the family tree in mind and watch this cold, you will be in for quite a ride. If you already know this opera, I think you will be impressed by this performance. Grade: "A+."

This clip was made for the Spanish language audience in Madrid where this was filmed at the Teatro Royal: