Leos Janácek: Jenufa

Leos Janácek: Jenufa

by Bernard Haitink
     
 

Slowly but surely, Janácek's Jenufa is entering the standard operatic repertory. And no wonder, since the story and music are so powerful, poignant, and -- ultimately -- uplifting. Also, a number of fine sopranos have discovered that Jenufa is a plum role. The great Finnish soprano Karita Mattila first sang the role inSee more details below

Overview

Slowly but surely, Janácek's Jenufa is entering the standard operatic repertory. And no wonder, since the story and music are so powerful, poignant, and -- ultimately -- uplifting. Also, a number of fine sopranos have discovered that Jenufa is a plum role. The great Finnish soprano Karita Mattila first sang the role in 1998 and has made a specialty of it since then. This recording was made live during an acclaimed production at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Mattila's pure yet intense tone is ideally suited to Jenufa -- a character who seems young and innocent but proves to have a rare nobility of spirit. The rest of the cast is also excellent. Jorma Silvasti's Laca is rightly impetuous, and he negotiates the high-flying part with astonishing ease. The veteran soprano Anja Silja invests the Kostelnicka (Jenufa's straight-laced stepmother) with more humanity than is usual, making her character less of a caricature. Bernard Haitink is not known as a Janácek conductor, and while he is not always as incisive as one might wish, the warmth and solidity of his interpretation are deeply satisfying. It has been many years since we've had such a fine recording of Jenufa as this one, and it is very urgently recommended -- not only to aficionados of the composer but also to those who are ready to discover one of the great operas of the early 20th century.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
It says a lot for Janácek's growing presence in the operatic mainstream that "Jenufa," which waited more than a decade for its "big city" premiere in Prague, and which existed for many years only in an edited and re-orchestrated version by Karel Kovarovic, now has multiple recordings using the original score -- and good ones, at that. This live recording from Covent Garden is truly wonderful, and it joins Charles Mackerras' 1982 recording of his own re-construction as a first choice for anyone interested in the work. Karita Mattila shines in the title role, exploiting every brief moment of lyricism that emerges from Janácek's speech-inflected score. Her suffering and betrayal at the hands of her family, and her eventual forgiveness of those hurts, is extremely moving. Jorma Silvasti is similarly believable as the jealous and rueful Laca. Although the bloom is gone from her voice, Anja Silja is perfectly cast as "Jenufa"'s stepmother; her genuine shame and despair at her murder of "Jenufa"'s child allows their final reconciliation to take on a humanity that it would not if she were played with less sympathy. Jerry Hadley is perfectly unlikable in the role of Steva -- a man so shallow that he would forsake the mother of his child over a scar on her cheek; his singing is excellent, as is his handling of the Czech language. Finally, Bernard Haitink deserves complements for leading such a tidy and well articulated performance. His balancing of orchestral colors and attention to pace make the score sound deceptively straightforward; the few moments when the orchestra overbalances the singers are an inevitable problem of live recordings, and shouldn't bother most listeners. The package comes with excellent notes and a full libretto.
New York Times - Derek Katz
The recording, drawn from performances at Covent Garden...gives a palpable sense of being in the theater. Characters laugh, dancers stamp and acts end with well-deserved applause. The performance also offers unusually vivid characterizations.... There are also many purely musical pleasures. Ms. Mattila and Jorma Silvasti are vocally resplendent as the romantic leads, and Mr. Haitink and the Covent Garden orchestra work wonders with Janacek's often brutally impractical orchestration. Every note can be picked out of the meticulously balanced textures, and even the shortest phrases are lovingly shaped.
Gramophone - Hugh Canning
Karita Mattila and Jorma Silvasti sing so gloriously here, and Haitink's orchestra plays so rapturously, that you almost forget that the conductor is using Janácek's original score.... The emotional catharsis of the live performance comes across almost as vividly here.... I would urge all who love this wonderful opera to hear this new recording.

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/17/2002
Label:
Erato
UPC:
0809274533029
catalogNumber:
45330
Rank:
283569

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Jenufa, opera, JW 1/4  - Leos Janácek  - Michel Chasteau  - Thierry Cohen  - Terry Edwards  - Jonathan Fisher  - Jerry Hadley  - Bernard Haitink  - Jennifer Higgins  - Leah-Marian Jones  - Peter Manning  - Peter Manning  - Karita Mattila  -  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus and Orchestra  - Eva Randova  - Elizabeth Sikora  - Anja Silja  - Jeremy White  - Jorma Silvasti  - Rebecca Nash  - Gail Pearson  - Jiri Adler  - Gabriela Preissová

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