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Stunning Precision

Janácek's 'Jenufa' in LA, reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

Czech composer Leos Janácek lived from 1854 to 1928. When he was in his early thirties, he wrote his first opera Sárka without having first asked Julius Zeyer, the author of the text, for the right to use it. The request was denied because Zeyer was hoping Dvorák would set it to music, so Janácek learned a hard lesson. Sárka was eventually given on its composer's 70th birthday! Janácek's second opera, Pocatek Romanu ('The Beginning of a Romance') was based on an 1886 short story by Gabriela Preissová. When it was premièred at the Provisional Theatre in Brno, it ran for only four performances before it was withdrawn by the composer who was, however, sold on Preissová's stories.

Karita Mattila in the title role of Janácek's 'Jenufa' at Los Angeles Opera. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Karita Mattila in the title role of Janácek's 'Jenufa' at Los Angeles Opera. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

Jenufa is based on Preissová's controversial 1890 play, Jeji Pastorkyna ('Her Stepdaughter'). The playwright utilized two actual events: one in which a man slashed the face of a woman he could not have, and a second in which an illegitimate baby was murdered. Janácek liked the piece because it was as dramatic as one of his favourite operas, Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.

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Copyright © 14 October 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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