Teatro Massimo di Palermo. Click on the image for higher resolution
On 23 October 2016, I attended the first
performance of Jenůfa in the grand fully-filled Teatro Massimo.
The production is a joint venture with
Antwerp Opera House, with stage
direction by Robert Carsen, sets and costumes by Patrick Kinmoth, lighting by Peter van Praet and
Gabriele Ferro in the pit conducting the very complexscore. The action is based on a gruesome plot with even the murder of
a newborn baby. The music drama is integrated with
Moravian folksinging and dancing in Act I and Act III.
At a deeper level, it is an apologue of
forgiveness as clearly shown by Jenůfa and Laça's arioso at the end of the
opera. During the previous nearly ninety minutes, the orchestration had been a mosaic of
small themes, often juxtaposed with one another and the vocal score, in
prose not verse, and skillfully studied so that each consonant and vowel
had a perfect fit in each note and
register. The psychological features and
developments of the main characters are explored much more
deeply than in the play on which the opera is based.
Valeria Tornatore as Rychtarka, Andrea Dankova as Jenůfa and Gabriella
Sbrogi as Starenka Buryojkova in Janáček's 'Jenůfa' at Teatro Massimo
di Palermo. Click on the image for higher resolution
More specifically, the
plot is intended to have a universal timeless meaning, not to be a crude
drama tightly set in rural Moravia. Robert Carsen and Patrick Kinmoth use
a very simple device to convey this: the action is moved from 1904 to the
nineteenth forties and the set is made from simple walls and doors where
all the time those who are outside can witness the real tragedy within the house and
the nearby mill. The village authorities — the
mayor, the parish priest and the villagers at
large — are petty people who cannot understand
the crux of the matter. Jenůfa, her stepmother and the two youngmaleprotagonists go through a Greek and Christian tragedy. (For a
summary, please refer to 'A Timeless
Message', 20 April 2015.) Greek because it is very crude, and Christian as underlined by
Jenůfa's Ave Maria and Salve, Regina in
Acts I and II, and by the stepmother's two prayers to God in search of a
solution in Acts II and III. At the end, during the arioso, the
doors and the walls disappear. Jenůfa and Laça are left alone in an open
field: a real coup de théâtre.
A scene from Act II of Janáček's 'Jenůfa' at Teatro Massimo di Palermo.
Click on the image for higher resolution
As in April 2015 in Bologna, Angeles
Blancas Gulin, who often plays young and attractivewomen such as Cleopatra and Poppea,
was made up to look old, and became a formidable stepmother. Andrea
Dankova was the highly dramatic Jenůfa, and Peter
Berger was Laça with a cleartimbre and a magnificent high C.
Martin Šrejma was the arrogant bullish and sleeky Steva. A vast number of
others, many of them young Italiansingers, counterpoint the principals, all to great success.
Andrea Dankova as Jenůfa and Peter Berger as Laça in Janáček's 'Jenůfa'
at Teatro Massimo di Palermo. Click on the image for higher resolution
The theatre was full
(unlike in 1979). When the curtains fell there were real standing