Opera Review: Jenufa

Among the most depressing operas of the repertoire, 'Jenufa' has delightful direction and sets.

Jenufa Czech opera 390 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jenufa Czech opera 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Janacek’s Jenufa, performed at the Israeli Opera, can be counted among the most depressing operas of the repertoire, although when it comer to Janacek, some even more depressing ones can be found.
Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s direction and Tobias Hoheisel’s sets were a delight. They inclined toward the minimalist, placing emphasis on refined taste. The dramatic action was highlighted pointedly and impressively, though without melodramatic exaggerations or modernist sophistication for its own sake, and refrained from crowding the stage with superfluous objects or figures.
Among the singers, the most outstanding was Dalia Schaechter as Kostelnicka.
Forcefully convincing in her rage, anguish and remorse, she expressed these emotions with intense strength and displayed an irresistible personality with her powerful mezzosoprano, without traversing the subtle borderline between excitement and exaggerated hysteria.
In the title role, Barbara Haveman’s bright, appealing soprano became too theatrical and shrill to be credible in this gentle, delicate and submissive girl’s love declarations, moments of grief, and despair.
Andrew Rees’s tenor sounded just as rough and aggressive as this unpleasant character presumably is intended to appear.
As Laca, Yorma Silvasti portrayed an impassioned, profoundly devoted lover.
After the stunning, superbly performed, dramatic climax at the end of Act Two, the concluding Act Three had a somewhat disappointing decrease of tension. Perhaps the best way to understand this unexplained profusion of love, remorse, wholesale forgiveness and milk of human kindness is to accept it as Janacek’s own personal, not necessarily realistic, wishful thinking.
George Pehlivanian, conducting the Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, sensitively and effectively underlined the dramatic action and emotional intricacies of the work, especially when he let tension mount in attentively