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Janáček, Jenůfa, Elisabeth Söderström, Eva Randová, Vienna Philharmonic, Charles Mackerras

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Janáček, Jenůfa, Karita Mattila, Anja Silja, Covent Garden, Bernard Haitink (2004)
I listened to the opening night broadcast of Jenůfa from the Met on Sirius last night. (Master Ionarts, unable to sleep for some reason, even shared one of my earpods for about ten minutes, when he came downstairs. Thankfully, the opera being in Czech, I did not have to explain why someone was throwing a baby into an icy river.) This opera should be one of the Met simulcasts this year but -- no surprise -- is not. Leoš Janáček is one of the big three opera composers of the first half of the 20th century, but he does not sell tickets. This production of Její pastorkyňa, as it was called originally in Czech, boasts soprano Karita Mattila in the title role, as well as Anja Silja as the dragon lady, Jenůfa's domineering stepmother, Petrona Slomková, whom everyone calls the Kostelnička, or the sacristan lady (an important position in the village church). Thanks to the work of pioneering conductor Charles Mackerras, the world has mostly readopted the score that Janáček wanted for this opera, not the revisions forced on him later by the Czech National Theater in Prague.

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It's a dark, troubling opera -- verismo but without the kitsch -- which Washingtonians will also have a chance to see on the stage, in a new production at Washington National Opera in May. (Edward Seckerson reviewed the Alden staging for The Independent when it premiered at English National Opera last fall.) Although the David Alden staging will be visually quite different, there is some musical overlap, beginning most importantly with the conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek. The Met and WNO have also cast the same Števa, Raymond Very (not all performances at the Met), and the same Laca (Kim Begley -- except, for whatever reason, at last night's premiere), but the female leads are all different: Patricia Racette (Jenůfa), Judith Christin (Grandmother Buryjovka), and Catherine Malfitano (the Kostelnička -- she sang the role at ENO and was greatly admired by Seckerson).

Only five performances remain at the Met, all with tickets still available. The Saturday afternoon radio broadcast of Jenůfa from the Met is scheduled for February 17, at 1:30 pm, the final performance of the run.

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