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<<  -- 3 --  Robert Hugill    PASSION AND COMMITMENT


In Act 3, Alden indulged in a bit of by-play, setting up the Mayor and his wife as snobs and giving the Mayor an unhealthy interest in the girls of the village (most of whom were depicted as no better than they should be). Russell Smythe and Sarah Pring as the Mayor and his wife, pointed up the comedy of manners in a caricatured way but without going too over the top.

When the body of the baby was discovered, the village people almost stormed Kostelnicka's cottage. The walls swung out, to open up the scene and permit the village people to enter. Without the benefit of cosy local colour, the locals were truly threatening and this whole sequence was very powerful.

When they left with Kostelnicka, you could sense something draining away. Thankfully, Alden did not shirk from Janácek's rapturous conclusion, allowing Jenufa and Laca to find a tentative happiness. But you sensed that it was a happiness borne of tragedy.

ENO used Sir Charles Mackerras's edition of the opera, which restored Janácek's final version before the cuts and re-orchestration imposed by the director of the Prague National Theatre in 1916. This should go without saying nowadays, but you still cannot guarantee which edition is being used in theatres.

Under the confident hands of Mikhail Agrest the orchestra played magnificently throughout and their handling of Janácek's original orchestral lines in the closing pages was truly radiant. Agrest is quite a find and I hope that we hear a lot more of him in this theatre.

This was a shattering evening in the theatre; a strong ensemble provided magnificent support for the outstanding performances of Amanda Roocroft and Catherine Malfitano. Not everyone will have liked David Alden's production style, but no-one can deny the passion and commitment that he drew from his performers.

We saw the final performance of the opera (on Saturday 26 October 2006) and the capacity audience was overwhelming in its approval of the singers and players. I hope we see this team here again soon.

Copyright © 4 November 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK





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