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Jenufa review at Coliseum London

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Janacek’s potent opera makes a welcome return to the Coliseum in a staging premiered in Houston in 2004. Charles Edwards’ sets and Jon Morrell’s costumes bring the action forward from the late nineteenth century to recent times, when the elements of folk culture and the domination of religion in moral thinking would have diminished but the work’s punch is retained in David Alden’s gripping staging, which relies on a particularly fine deployment of the ENO chorus.

At the show’s heart are Amanda Roocroft’s Jenufa and Catherine Malfitano as her foster-mother, the Kostelnicka, who murders Jenufa’s illegitimate baby out of misplaced love and pride. Malfitano maintains her dominance both vocally and dramatically but Roocroft goes further, seeking out the emotional truth of her character with the deepest attention to detail. This is an exceptional performance even by her exacting standards.

The two crucial tenor roles both lack an ideal vocal power, though Paul Charles Clarke conveys well the fecklessness of Steva, who gets Jenufa into trouble, and Stuart Skelton some of the complexity of his half-brother Laca, whose love finally gets her out of it.

The smaller roles are well cared for, with Susan Gorton once again creating a credible presentation of Grandmother Buryja. Mikhail Agrest conducts with a good sense of pace, though some of the edginess of Janacek’s sound-world is smoothed away. But his great opera moves the audience in what is a definite success for ENO.

Production Information

Coliseum, London, October 9, 12, 14, 18, 20, 26, 28

David Alden
English National Opera
Cast includes
Amanda Roocroft, Catherine Malfitano, Stuart Skelton, Paul Charles Clarke
Running time
2hrs 20mins

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