The recording sessions
for this Jenůfa
WNO’s Spring 2003 staging. The confidence
of the resultant recording is therefore
a direct result of this, plus the advantage
of having a leading Janáček interpreter
at the helm, Sir Charles Mackerras.
The score used is the
original Brno version - the revision
for Prague smoothed out some sonorities.
A rougher cut is surely more appropriate
for a gritty tale of pregnancy outside
marriage and its grizzly repercussions.
is an acknowledged expert on Janáček
and a foremost interpreter of
his music, and his ease with the musical
language shines though every bar. Orchestral
balances are carefully considered so
that voices are not overwhelmed, yet
none of the emotionalism of the score
is underplayed. The sense of theatrical
ensemble is strong, and whatever the
strengths of individual contributions,
the sense of wholeness is what makes
this set the success it is.
Watson takes the role of Jenůfa.
The stage performances at WNO were,
sadly, Susan Chilcott’s last, and she
was forced to withdraw from this recording.
Watson is impressive. She is fully aware
of the expressive range of the part,
projecting the persona
of a young girl who is capable of real
fury (as in the confrontation with Steva,
Act 1 Scene 6). Watson is fully up to
Janáček’s not inconsiderable demands.
Josephine Barstow is the Kostelnička
(Chandos list the role preceded with
the definite article. Usually it is
listed as just ‘Kostelnička’, but
the word does actually mean ‘female
church warden’, so they are correct
to do so!). Barstow oozes confidence
- there is the aural implication of
long familiarity with this part. Try,
for example, her account of her
own experiences of co-dependant alcoholism
(CD1, track 5), or her relating of the
child’s death in Act 2 (CD 2, track
3). Importantly also, her voice works
well with those around it – both here
(with Grandmother Buryja, Elizabeth
towards the beginning of Act 2, with
Jenůfa herself (when Kostelnička
relates the death of the baby to Jenůfa).
Perhaps only her curse is not worthy
of the part – it is easy to imagine
it more vindictive than in the present
rich and powerful Grandmother is another
of the set’s assets. Peter Wedd’s Števa
is perhaps a little under-powered; better
(especially when he lets his voice open
out) is Nigel Robson’s Laca. Of the
smaller roles, special mention should
go to mezzo Imelda Drumm’s assumption
of the Maid, a small part that she makes
the most of; the same could be said
of soprano Rosie Hay’s Barena (a servant
at the mill). Charlotte Ellett provides
a youthful sounding Karolka; Marion
McCullogh is a clear-voiced Mayor’s
the star remains Mackerras, whose ability
to pace the scenes over a large time-span
creates the requisite dramatic canvas.
The felicities of Janáček’s scoring
emerge as if newly-minted, sometimes
inspiring delight, at others horror.
It is clear Mackerras has inspired
the orchestra of WNO to great things.
The recording enables all of the detail
to come through, crystal clear.