Jenufa critique: a production infused with heartwarming humanity


he youthful Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has been garnering acclaim at La Scala, Salzburg and Bayreuth in latest a long time and her debut at Covent Backyard in the title job of Janacek’s Jenufa was eagerly predicted. The Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, as soon as a wonderful Jenufa herself, returns to the Royal Opera in the role of the formidable Kostelnicka (church warden), Jenufa’s foster-mom.

Expectations ended up high and pretty largely they have been fulfilled. Grigorian superbly incarnates the tragic role of Jenufa, equally in her anguished human body language and her command of the part’s enthusiasm-infused lyricism. Potentially the wide-open up spaces of Michael Levine’s if not exceptional sets, and her putting on them, really do not help her ample, but when she arrives downstage with Laca at the close, her whole vocal prospective is at very last realised in the rapturous redemption the pair bear.

Mattila, for her component, provides an acutely perceptive examining of the job of the Kostelnicka: terrifying she could be, but she also suffers. Right here she is discovered as a frightened, vulnerable aged matriarch, in a position to exhibit flashes of human warmth, but damned by her murderous approach to attain a respectable marriage for her expecting but abandoned foster-daughter.

Nicky Spence’s splendidly sung Laca matures from a lumbering, sinister social reject into a figure able of a loyalty that provides some hope for the future. Saimir Pirgu is an impassioned Steva, his 50 percent-brother and rival.

Karita Mattila

/ ©Tristram Kenton

Claus Guth’s manufacturing is at the same time powerfully, even closely, symbolic and psychologically probing. The white partitions and beds of Levine’s opening set, redolent of a mental institution, stand for a manufacturing unit where the village ladies are earning things this sort of as cradles and trousseaux. Their mechanised, alienated entire world (costumes by Gesine Völlm, lights by James Farncombe) delivers the backdrop for Jenufa’s tormented existence: in eloquent synchrony the women wrest liquor bottles from their menfolk.

In the 2nd act, silhouetted woman figures huddle in a corner sporting headgear reminiscent of a Handmaid’s cowl. From the group emerges an massive crow, no question a element of the sleeping Jenufa’s nightmare, which perches atop the aptly cage-like composition that is her bed room. Equally symbolic are the ever-present shutters that outline Jenufa’s existence, but which finally come down powering the few as they hesitantly face the foreseeable future.

Guth’s disposition of both equally principals and group unfailingly exudes a sense of menace: the desperate steps these characters resort to are plainly created by the stifling ecosystem that has spawned them. Glimpses of natural beauty, these kinds of as a starlit sky, presage the uplifting closing transformation. Henrik Nánási’s fine conducting highlights the textures that glint like a knife, still captures also the heartwarming humanity that throbs by the do the job.

Royal Opera House, to Oct 12 (020 7304 4000, isles)