The Royal Opera presents a new production of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa, directed by award-winning German director Claus Guth. This is the third opera in The Royal Opera’s Janáček series, following on from the successes of From the House of the Dead (2018) and the award-winning Kát’a Kabanová (2019). It is the first staging of Jenůfa at Covent Garden since 2001.
Jenůfa explores the lives of two courageous women struggling for fulfilment in a small rural community. Janáček movingly captures Jenůfa’s progression from hope to despair to eventual radiant happiness, while her stepmother, the Kostelnička, is one of opera’s most complex and sympathetic maternal figures.
Jenůfa has become pregnant by Števa, a handsome mill-owner who is also a drunkard and womanizer. She hopes to marry him before her secret is discovered. However, Jenůfa’s stepmother, the Kostelnička, had a violent, alcoholic husband and doesn’t want her stepdaughter to suffer as she did. She tells Števa he won’t be allowed to marry Jenůfa unless he stays sober for a year. Števa’s overbearing behaviour towards Jenůfa angers his half-brother Laca, who loves Jenůfa. When Jenůfa defends Števa, Laca loses his temper. In the ensuing struggle he slashes Jenůfa’s face with a knife.
The Kostelnička hides Jenůfa in their home and pretends that she has gone away. Months later, Jenůfa secretly gives birth to Števa’s son. Števa learns about his child but refuses to marry Jenůfa now her face is disfigured. Laca offers to marry Jenůfa but is reluctant to take on Števa’s child. In her determination to save her stepdaughter’s reputation the Kostelnička commits a terrible crime, revealed on Jenůfa’s wedding day.
The production features set designs by Canadian designer Michael Levine. In the 2019/20 Season he also designs sets for The Turn of the Screw directed by Natalie Abrahami in the Linbury Theatre. Jenůfa also features designs by German costume designer Gesine Völlm and British lighting designer James Farncombe and choreography by the Argentine choreographer Teresa Rotemberg, making her Royal Opera debut. Video designs are by rocafilm.
Jenůfa is conducted by Former Music Director of Glyndebourne Vladimir Jurowski who makes a long-awaited return to The Royal Opera conducting this stunning score infused with the folk music of Janáček’s native Moravia. Lithuanian soprano and rising star Asmik Grigorian makes her Royal Opera debut as Jenůfa and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, an acclaimed Jenůfa for The Royal Opera in 2001, sings the Kostelnička. They are joined by Czech tenor Pavel Černoch as Števa Buryja, English tenor Allan Clayton as Laca Klemen and Italian mezzo-soprano Elena Zilio as Grandmother Buryjovka.
Jenůfa opens at the Royal Opera House on 24 March 2020, with subsequent performances on 27 and 30 March and 3, 6 and 9 April 2020.