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The Jenůfa Year Continues

Jenůfa, directed by David Alden, English National Opera, 2006,
photo by Clive Barda
The final performance of the Met's production of Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa was broadcast on the radio on Saturday afternoon. I heard the first half or so before heading off to hear Jean-Yves Thibaudet's recital at the Kennedy Center, but I had listened to an earlier performance, too, thanks to Sirius radio. Musically, it was a knockout, but how much better an experience it will be to see and hear this opera in a live staging in the spring at Washington National opera.

This weekend, the production by David Alden that will be brought to Washington in May (co-produced with Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera) won the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production (hat tip to All about Opera). Go to the Opera Critic for links to reviews of the London production last fall. Catherine Malfitano, who sang the role of the Kostelnička in London, will also sing in Washington, but our Jenůfa will be Patricia Racette, instead of Amanda Roocroft, who won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, too. Tickets are on sale now for performances on May 5, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, and 24, and all signs indicate that this may be the highlight of the Washington season. Tell your friends!

In related news, Houston Grand Opera, where this production premiered in 2004, will mount the composer's Cunning Little Vixen, unfortunately adapted in English for children but still one of my favorite operas.


jfl said...

Doesn't the Cunning little Vixen have a history of being performed in the vernacular of the country that performs it in? It has a long history of being performed in English, I don't know if there are two versions on DVD now, but for a while the only one available was in German... -- it strikes me as the kind of 'operanina' that gains more than it loses in a witty translation.

Charles T. Downey said...

It is performed a lot in German, and I'm sure that it can work nicely in English. The last DVD I reviewed, from the Châtelet, is in Czech, and it's really wonderful in the original language. My objection to English derives from the effort that Janáček made to craft melodies from the sounds of spoken Czech, which a translation into English or any other language could not capture.

Jiří Bělohlávek told a story during intermission on the Met broadcast about how Janáček carried around a notebook. When a neighbor or anyone would say something musical ("Good day" or whatever), he would notate it, text and melody, in his notebook, to be used as he crafted the sung speech of his operatic characters.

Of course, Bělohlávek also said that although most of the Met cast had done a lot of work trying to get the Czech right (with coaching by him and others), the pronunciation was good but still not exactly Czech. Maybe I am imagining things that I need to hear the music with the words for which Janáček crafted it.

Garth Trinkl said...

The Washington [National] Opera's production of Janáček's "Cunning Little Vixen" was in English [as was the even finer production, by the late Romanian/British designer Maria Bjornson, at the English National Opera.]

The Prague National [Opera]Theater, thankfully, performs the work in Czech -- but with English titles! :) Its production was the best of the three.