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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Hugill    PASSION AND COMMITMENT


Laca appeared (on Harley Davison) with female admirers in tow, providing virtually the only touch of colour in a monochrome world. Alden and choreographer Clare Glaskin used the chorus's dance-song to point up the crudeness and vulgarity of Jenufa's world; the chorus danced a threatening and vulgar version of the folk-dance, whilst in a corner Grandma Burya reminded herself of the more traditional version.

Kostelnicka's eruption into this scene was startling -- she was dressed in severe black with dyed black hair. Catherine Malfitano cut a striking, dumpy figure, of almost Mediterranean severity. Malfitano's Kostelnicka was passionate and severe; she was unbending, but without that ramrod-backed, eagle-like Northern ascetic severity which singers like Eva Randova, Ana Silja and Pauline Tinsley brought to the role.

Malfitano's diction was exemplary throughout and this helped her enormously in communicating the character. Alden included the Act 1 aria for Kostelnicka which Janácek cut; though it held up the action, it helped to clarify her attitude to the unreliable Burya men.

But though Malfitano was strong, she was not alone; Amanda Roocroft's Jenufa was the dominant force. To say that Roocroft dominated was perhaps to make her Jenufa sound active, which she was not. Roocroft presented us with Jenufa in all her tormented anxiety and feeling that she was trapped in this society. You could clearly see the seeds of Katya Kabanova in her portrayal.

For Acts 2 and 3, Alden uses the same set, a skewed version of the interior of Kostelnicka's cottage, basically functional with bare walls. The only comfort was a statue of the Virgin. Kostelnicka and Jenufa's world was bare and stark; Alden used this to throw the spotlight on the confrontations between Kostelnicka and Steva, Kostelnicka and Laca. Roocroft made Jenufa's monologue shattering and her reaction when she learned that the baby was dead was heart-breaking. Malfitano made believable Kostelnicka's mixture of indecision and firmness over the fate of the baby.

At the end of Act 2 Laca and Jenufa's rapprochement was tentatively believable, with Laca unable to properly comfort Jenufa. After all the tragedy, Roocroft's Jenufa was haunted, contained and truly comfortless.

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Copyright © 4 November 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


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