Janacek Jenufa, Glyndebourne On Tour
Thursday 29 October 2009
The explosion of violence which almost halts Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s 1989 staging of Janacek’s Jenufa minutes before the final curtain still resonates in ways one cannot quite fathom and in this stonking revival for Glyndebourne on Tour it arrives with a heartbreaking inevitability that is genuinely shocking.
This is the moment where all the cosily picturesque elements of this ‘everyday story of country folk’, as visualised in crisply naïve detail by Tobias Hoheisel, are finally stripped bare to reveal the ugly brutality beneath.
But that isn’t the final action or the final word. The best excesses of human nature can and will trump the worst - and if what follows doesn’t humble you in some small way then nothing will. The great strength of this revival – directed with real intelligence and force by Daniel Dooner – is that it looks far beyond the primary motivations and actions of the opera’s principal characters and diligently explores the emotional, spiritual, and moral in-betweens.
The unifying performance – and what a performance -of the evening comes from Anne Mason as Jenufa’s stepmother, the Kostelnicka, whose determination to give her stepdaughter a better life than hers drives this essentially decent woman to an unspeakable act. That we can so completely read and understand the emotional journey that takes her there is a huge tribute to both singer and director. When in act one this tight-waisted, buttoned-up, woman stands centre stage to reveal the depths of a lifetime’s disillusionment the light that goes out within her goes out on stage, too. I don’t think I have ever been quite so moved by her scene with the wastrel Steva where she goes down on her knees to beg him to rescue her stepdaughter and his illegitimate child from social disgrace. More often that not we see two-dimensional Kostelnickas – not so with Mason. The emotional range of her singing draws us in so close it’s uncomfortable. Tremendous.
So, too, Giselle Allen in the title role, a performance of terrific emotional and vocal reach, and one which one feels is enabled, opened up, by what Mason gives her in the searing second act. Pavel Cernoch’s weak-willed Steva and Peter Wedd’s big-hearted Laca are both unstintingly credible, too.
And the main protagonist, Janacek’s orchestra, harnessed by Robin Ticciati with such precision and awareness and sensitivity as to have every nerve-end jangling. If you can get to Woking, Stoke-on-Trent, Norwich, Milton Keynes, or Plymouth, then you’ve a chance to catch one of the operatic performances of the year.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate