Photo Journal: Jenufa, with Eva-Maria Westbroek, at Bavarian State Opera

Classic Arts Features   Photo Journal: Jenufa, with Eva-Maria Westbroek, at Bavarian State Opera
With its sixth premiere of the season, the company takes on Janacek's tale of a young woman's quest for a little happiness in a climate of failure, error and misfortune. Frank Cadenhead reports from Munich, discussing the risks and challenges in mounting a new Jenufa.

It sometimes looks easy but certainly is not! The April 8 opening of Janacek's Jenufa at Munich's Bavarian State Opera - a major success with the audience - was actually something that has been in the works for years.

That all the elements to make an opera are in the same city on the same night is already something of a miracle. Imagine a chef preparing a dish years in advance with no possibility of adjusting the ingredients or knowing for sure whether they will still be fresh. That all of these diverse resources find a single artistic voice in an opera house is rare. But when beauty and truth illuminate the very heart of the opera - that is a miracle.

The intendant, Nikolaus Bachler, assembled the cast years before the event. In this case, he picked a gifted theater director, Barbara Frey, but it was to be her first staging in an opera house. Would she adjust to this very different environment?

Young Eva-Maria Westbroek, in the title role, is acclaimed as an emerging star but would the comet continue its course? Would there be the necessary chemistry between her and Deborah Polaski, the soprano veteran who would be the Kostelnicka. Operatic legend Helga Dernesch, 70, is the grandmother but would she still be ready for the spotlight?

Tenor Joseph Kaiser, to sing Steva, has only a few credits at the time of signing and is making his Munich debut. Could he convince as the young man who infatuates all the girls in the village? Stefan Margita has made his name in the critical role of Laca but might he have the flu that night?

For the conductor, do you play safe with a dependable veteran in the pit or take a chance on the energy of youth? Young conductor Kirill Petrenko has since won praise for his appearances at the Met, Covent Garden, Paris and Vienna, but most of these accolades came after he was already engaged for the Munich dates. Would he manage to connect with the singers and the orchestra?

The press rendered their verdict. Die Welt's headline: "Barbara Frey's Successful Jenufa in Munich." "So sad, so beautiful" trumpets Der Standard. "Grandiose staging" from the Nurenburger Nactrichten. Sometimes, just sometimes, everything works as it should.

Jenufa continues at the Bavarian State Opera's National Theater through April 27 and will be seen again as part of the Munich Opera Festival on July 9.

For tickets and information in English, visit Bavarian State Opera.

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All photos by Wilfried H‹sl for Bavarian State Opera.

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Jenufa and Helga Dernesch as Grandmother Buryjovka

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Jenufa and Joseph Kaiser as teva Buryja

Eva-Maria Westbroek
Eva-Maria Westbroek and Joseph Kaiser

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Jenufa, Deborah Polaski as Kostelnicka and Stefan Margita as Laca Klemeň

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Deborah Polaski

Deborah Polaski, Christoph Stephinger, Heike Gr‹tzinger, Helga Dernesch, Stefan Margita, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Joseph Kaiser and Lana Kos

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Stefan Margita

Deborah Polaski and Eva-Maria Westbroek

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Stefan Margita

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