Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday at the Opera - Jenufa

     My opera for today is a 2005 production of Jenufa from the Gran Teatre Liceu.  This production stars Nina Stemme and Eva Marton. I watched it on YouTube (link below). There are times when a performance or production is so outstanding that it completely overwhelms you.  Such is the case with this production and performance.  Eva Marton gives a stunning and incredible performance as Kostelnicka and she is matched by an equally outstanding performance by Nina Stemme in the title role.  The remainder of the cast and chorus are also excellent.  Jorma Silvasti as Laca and Par Lindskog Stárek as Števa were also terrific.  I found the production very interesting and moving. Each setting had a rock or rocks as focal points and the meaning of this became apparent in reading the English subtitles.  This was perhaps the most out of place in act 2, but this is the act where this symbolism became the most profound.

     In many ways this is a disturbing opera.  It is not just the infanticide (we have that in Il Trovatore after all).  It is the atmosphere of this village which is some brilliant depicted in the orchestration right at the beginning of the opera.  The repeated patterns in the xylophone set up this sense of oppressive atmosphere and throughout the act it comes in and out of the orchestration.  And the atmosphere in this village is toxic.  Rooted in religious oppression fear and judgment are the present realities for all the residents, especially the women.  In a moment of weakness Jenufa has given herself to Steva and the consequences for this are grave indeed.  There is no forgiveness available to her and she is rejected and dishonored, especially by Steva who is desperate to get away from her. This fear, judgment and oppression are what finally drive Kostelnicka to her desperate act.  It is a horrible act, but it is done in love, in a desperate attempt to give Jenufa her life back in this harsh environment.  This is what religious oppression looks like.  This is the world that the so-called "Evangelical Christian Right" would create for us all.  It is a miserable world and it is neither Evangelical nor Christian.  But (spoiler alert) there is a ray of hope and of light that shines into this dark and miserable environment and it comes in the form of forgiveness.  Jenufa forgives - Jenufa shows a grace and love that is uncommon and it has an amazing effect.  This is the antidote for the fear, the judgment and the hate = it is love!  That is what the Christian Gospel is all about.  It is amazing to me that so many who claim to be followers of Christ seem to completely miss this.  They need to watch this opera and take its climax to heart.

     One thing I love to watch for is how the cast interacts with each other during the curtain calls and this cast is amazingly affectionate with each other.  It was very touching to see Nina Stemme hug Eva Marton and for Marton to gently kiss her on her head - both with tears in their eyes.  In fact they were both crying real tears in act 2 - how can they sing?  This is an amazing performance!  Watch it!

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