[Met Performance] CID:88430

United States Premiere, New Production

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, December 6, 1924 Matinee

Debut : Martin Öhman, Hans Pühringer

In German

Jenufa (1)
Leos Janácek | Leos Janácek/Gabriela Preissová
Maria Jeritza

Martin Öhman [Debut]

Margarete Matzenauer

Rudolf Laubenthal

Kathleen Howard

Gustav Schützendorf

Charlotte Ryan

Grace Anthony

James Wolfe

Mayor's Wife
Laura Robertson

Ellen Dalossy

Marie Mattfeld

Artur Bodanzky

Wilhelm Von Wymetal

Set Designer
Hans Pühringer [Debut]

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Costume Designer
Mathilde Castel-Bert

Ottokar Bartik

Translation by Max Brod
Jenufa received six performances this season.
Alternate titles: Její Pastorkyna; Her Foster Daughter.

Review 1:

Review in the Evening Journal by Irving Weil


From time to time Mr. Giulio Gatti-Casazza seeks to fatten the German repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera, but in spite of such bits of promising nourishment as he picks up here and there, the repertoire seems to remain statically Wagnerian. Young Erich Korngold's "Die tote Stadt" and Max von Schilling's "Mona Lisa" do not appear to have been ecstatically absorbed, and the General Director's latest experiment, "Jenufa," offered up for the first time on Saturday afternoon, is not likely to do any better.

The new opera-new, however, only to New York, for it has been available any time these twenty years-is a setting by the Bohemian, Lèos Janacek, of a tale by Gabriella Preissova. Neither of these names, of course, means anything here, for none of Janacek's music heretofore got across the Atlantic and the librettist is an unknown. Janacek, who is now seventy, is a Checho-Slovakian-a Moravian, to be more specific-and his opera is a Moravian "Cavalleria Rusticana," minus anything remotely as good as Mascagni's music.

?Why Mr. Gatti-Casazza ever came to look hopefully upon "Jenufa" would be a mystery if one did not happen to think that he has in his company a Bohemian conductor, a Bohemian ballet master who, nevertheless, is given to offering advice, and a Moravian prima donna. Probably all three were too much for him and therefore, "Jenufa." But no one ought to take it into his head from this that "Jenufa" is the worst opera we have ever heard. As a fact, it is a long way from that. The unforgettable "Mona" of Horatio Parker, the "Cyrano de Bergerac" of Walter Damrosch, "The Polish Jew" of-who was it wrote that one?-were immeasurably worse. Indeed, now we have begun cataloguing, we can think of a score or so far, far worse. But "Jenufa" is quite worse enough.

?For one thing, the opera tells a tale of the Moravian contadini over which it is difficult to become greatly excited. Jenufa is ruined, as they used to put it in "Bertha, the Beautiful Sewing-Machine Girl," by a young Don Juan of the Moravian hills, and being that sort he refuses to make her an honest woman, as they still put it in Max Marcin melodrama. Her stepmother conceals her till the child is born and then tells the young Don Juan's brother, who is also crazy about Jenufa, the whole story. The child, she adds, is dead. The brother then agrees to marry her. Meanwhile the stepmother takes the child and drops it under the ice in the offstage river and tells Jenufa it died. But the little thing is of course found by the villagers and Stepmother confesses.

?It is easily conceivable that such a tale, or something like it, could be made a gripping affair. One has only to think of Sydney Howard's current peasant drama, "They Knew What They Wanted" with Pauline Lord, or of "Cavalleria Rusticana" itself for that matter, to realize this. But there are a dozen reasons why it isn't. One of them is that the Metropolitan Opera House is the Metropolitan Opera House. Another that Maria Jeritza, the Jenufa is no Pauline Lord; still another that the German translation is either poor stuff or the original is the same. And, chief of them all, that Janacek's music is a pretilly light comic matter trying to characterize the tragic. This music flows along gently and unobtrusively, with a Wagnerian twist and turn every now and again, but never achieves so much as a profile of the drama. Mr. Janacek has theories about song-speech in opera, but he forgot or was unable to make his song-speech say or sing anything definite or apt.

So far as the performance on Saturday went, Margaret Matzenauer, the stepmother, Buryja, walked away with the opera. She was the one person on the stage in whom you had any belief, the only one who put anything of the tragic into the tragedy. Her acting, to be sure, was of the type sometimes designated as all over the place, but, anyhow, it made its point. And, after all, peasants, we suppose, are not expected to be subtle. Her singing was matzenauerian, as usual, but it was rather less atonal than customarily.

?Mme. Jeritza's Jenufa seemed to be a girl who, in spite of those Moravian costumes, ought to have known how to take care of herself better than she did. She had her moments, to be sure, and as nearly always, contributed her acrobatic bit, but she was scarcely impressive. And her singing, for the most part, was exceedingly loud. So was Rudolf Laubenthal's, who was the local Moravian Don Juan. He seemed to have the heroic tenor complex for the afternoon and it didn't agree with him very well. Mr. Bodanzky conducted. Mr. Von Wymental did some excellent stage directing.

Review 2:

Review of Ernest Newman, guest critic of the Evening Post


"What a crew" said a well known dramatic critic of the characters in one of the Ibsen plays. 'What a crew!" we may say also of the people of "Jenufa" that had its first performance (in German) at the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday. A more complete collection of undesirables and incredibles has never previously appeared in opera.

?To [the] crude story, Janacek has written music that is obviously the work of a man who, however many works he may have to his credit, is only a cut above the amateur. The best things in the score are the national songs and dances, which are charming. For the bigger moments he has mostly nothing but conventional operatic formulae. It is a little puzzling, to the non-Czech listener, to find cheerful national dance rhythms running though the most tragic scenes. Apparently in these Central European countries, you do everything to these rhythms; you shave yourself to a Krakoviak, cut a man's throat to a Mazurka, and bury him to a Czardas?

?The company labored hard to make these absurd stage figures credible to us, but Mr. Laubenthal, for all his intelligence, could not bring them to life, and Mr. Oehman seemed none too happy as Laca. Mme. Matzenauer was duly convulsive as Burya, and admirably realistic, for naturally you could not expect a poor woman with so much on her mind to sing with perfect melodiousness. I did not see Jenufa anywhere, but her clothes were worn by Mme. Jeritza, who, if she was more self conscious than I imagine the real Jeritza would have been, sang infinitely better. The opera was charmingly staged, and the costumes were a delight to the eye.

From the

Review 3:

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

The Metropolitan's production of the work is admirable. The opera is beautifully mounted, intelligently directed, and effectively impersonated. It is not easy to imagine a more perfect embodiment of the role of the ill-used peasant girl than Jeritza's. Her handling of the scene in which she learns of the death of her child is as beautiful and affecting a thing as she has done here; it is on a par with her Tosca for veracity and skill and power. We shall not soon forget her moving delivery of "So starb es, mein süsses Herzenskind" And Mme. Matzenauer has done nothing in recent years as adroit and fine as her performance of the Sexton's Widow - save for those few moments at the close of the second act when she overstresses her indication of superstitious dread by excess of movement and gesture. She should study Chaliapin s exquisite economy of movement in his acting of a similar scene in "Boris."

Mr. Laubenthal, as the perfidious Steva, bettered by a good deal his previous impersonations here - his first act bun(sic) is a thing to marvel at. The Laca of Martin Oehman (the Swedish tenor who is new this season at the Metropolitan) was an efficient performance, praiseworthy for its intelligence and its quiet force. These were the chief roles; the others were for the most part capably done.

Mr. Bodanzky conducted devotedly and with authority, as he always does. The settings are delightful, and the charming costumes, with their gorgeous embroidery, their furred coats and their captivating flowered hats would lure us again and again to the Metropolitan, even though we had to. listen to Janacek's colorless music. The audience, a huge one, was extraordinarily enthusiastic. the Metropolitan has played a winning card. "Jenufa" is better than "I Compagnacci."

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