Opera Scotland

Leos Janacek

Jenufa in Scotland

Posted 31 Mar 2015

The first performance of Jenufa in Scotland was on 31 August 1974 at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre.  Part of the Edinburgh International Festival, it was given by the Royal Swedish Opera. The staging by Götz Friedrich was conducted by Berislav Klobucar and sung in Swedish. Gripping performances by Elisabeth Söderström as Jenufa and Kerstin Meyer as the Kostelnicka left the audience quite shaken, and the curtain fell to a hushed silence that nobody dared break for several seconds.

Scottish Opera soon joined forces with Welsh National Opera to set up a cycle of five of Janácek’s stage works, starting with Jenufa. David Pountney, Scottish Opera’s Director of Productions, directed, with designs by Maria Bjørnson. All were first conducted by WNO’s Musical Director, Richard Armstrong, later to take the same post with Scottish Opera. After opening in Cardiff, Jenufa moved to the Glasgow Theatre Royal in 1977. The cast was led by Pauline Tinsley, who sang the Kostelnicka in every performance of this staging. The title role was taken by Josephine Barstow, with Allen Cathcart as Laca and Gregory Dempsey as Števa. The great success of this run led to an immediate revival the following season, with most of the same cast. The conductor for this run was Alexander Gibson, and South African soprano Wendy Fine, who had recently sung the part at the Royal Opera House, took the title role. A future Janácek specialist, Donald Maxwell, took over from Malcolm Donnelly as the mill foreman.

The final run of the production was given in 1989, conducted by Roderick Brydon. Pauline Tinsley continued in the cast, as did Claire Livingstone as the Grandmother. Jenufa was taken by Anne Williams-King, with the great Wagner tenor Alberto Remedios singing Laca for the first time. Graham Clark, who also sang Števa at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, returned to the Company after a long gap.

Before that run, Scottish Opera mounted the opera in a highly praised small-scale piano-accompanied version. Directed by Matthew Richardson with Brenda Hurley on piano, this production toured round Scotland in 1986. Virginia Kerr and Linda McLeod led the cast, with Paul Strathearn as Laca and Christopher Adams as Števa.

The opera was most recently seen at the Perth Festival in 2006. English Touring Opera’s production was directed by James Conway, conducted by Michael Rosewell and featured Amanda Echalaz as Jenufa.

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