Friday, April 22, 2016

Public Service Announcement: Jenufa

This summer, San Francisco Opera will be presenting Janacek's great opera Jenufa, with Jiri Belohlavek conducting and with the magnificent Karita Mattila as Kostelnicka.

I've been encouraging everyone I know to go see it, and also telling them: don't read the plot synopsis. You only get to see it the first time once.

However, the work is a lot easier to understand if you can follow the family relationships. Joshua Kosman helpfully posted a family tree and some explanations to opera-l back in 2000, which must have been the last time SFO brought up this piece. Herewith the family tree and his notes (Feedly is garbling the family tree, so if you are reading this post with Feedly or an RSS reader, click through, probably on a laptop or desktop machine):

                      GRANDMOTHER BURYJA
                  had two sons (both deceased)
               |                          |
               |                          |
KLEMEN -----BURYJA        1st wife---TOMAS BURYJA---2nd wife
(widow)  | (a miller)    (unnamed) |               KOSTELNICKA
  |      |                         |
  |      |                         |

[Joshua's notes:  The one point that got squeezed out of my version [of the family tree] is that Laca is Widow Klemen's son from her first marriage.

The editors also append these helpful notes:

Steva is Grandmother's real grandson.
Laca is Grandmother's step-grandson.
Kostelnicka is Grandmother's daughter-in-law.
Jenufa is Kostelnicka's stepdaughter and Grandmother's real granddaughter. ]
Lisa adds: 
1. Steva is due to inherit the mill because he is Buryja's son from his first marriage in the direct male line. The Widow Klemen is Burjya's second wife; Laca is her son from her marriage to Klemen. (Laca and Steva are both Widow Klemen's sons.)
2. Jenufa loves Steva. Note that they are first cousins: their fathers were brothers.
3. Laca loves Jenufa. They are not related by blood.


CruzSF said...

It will be difficult for me to avoid a plot synopsis, but I'll try! Thanks for the chart.

Anonymous said...

I think your first point is not quite right: Števa's mother is the Widow Klemeň (so no first marriage for Buryja the miller's son). That's what makes Laca and Števa half brothers. But Števa is the heir to the mill because he is in the male line of succession, unlike Laca.

I found this explained in a 2009 post on Gavin Plumley's website Entartete Musik -- he got it from a program note by John Tyrrell for a Royal Opera production, who in turn got it from reading the original play and subsequent novelization by Gabriela Preissová. The libretto of the opera seems to leave out some of the details, hence the confusion. Additional information: Jenůfa's mother was also named Jenůfa, and the Kostelnička's name is Petrona Slomková.

Apparently the whole generation between the Grandmother and the three young people is deceased, except for the Kostelnička, who consequently carries a huge weight of responsibility on her shoulders.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Slapping forehead - of course you are right. Steva and Laca share a mother, not father. I have made corrections, thank you.

Eric Pease said...

BBC Radio 3 Jenufa:

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whoa, THANK YOU, Eric. Clickable version of the link:

Belohlavek Jenufa with Mattila as Kostelnicka.

JSC said...

Very helpful. Thank you!

Lisa Hirsch said...

You are welcome!