20/09/2008 - 27/09/2008
11/10/2008 - 18/10/2008
A rare masterpiece comes to our shores… with a great deal for under-25s
"Anyone with an interest in theatre or music must see Jenufa – it will be an unforgettable experience!" Aidan Lang, General Director of The NBR New Zealand Opera, has seen the world famous Glyndebourne Festival production several times and is delighted to be bringing it to New Zealand, opening in Auckland on 20 September and in Wellington on 11 October. "This," he says, "is the acme of opera productions, created by the great Nikolaus Lehnhoff, one of opera’s directing heavyweights – the precision, detail, and taut construction are unsurpassed as a piece of direction and coexist seamlessly with the subtly expressionistic design. And nowhere in opera is reality more raw and uncensored than in Jenufa; it’s intensely dramatic and deeply moving, and is as relevant to today’s audiences as it was to those a hundred years ago when it was written."
In its commitment to fostering younger audiences, The NBR New Zealand Opera has a special ticket offer for under-25 year olds to experience this great masterpiece. From 9.00am on the day of the show, those under 25 who present their ID in person at the Aotea Centre box office (Auckland) or St James Theatre box office (Wellington) are eligible for the $25 ticket price, subject to ticket availability. Under-25s tickets cannot be reserved or put on hold, and only one ticket per ID can be purchased. Any ID that shows proof of age is accepted.
Banish your ideas of sweet and predictable love stories; Jenufa has brave love, mad love, and crushing tragedy, its origins lying in a primal story of sex, lies, love and forgiveness.
A stellar cast, headed by Anne Sophie Duprels as Jenufa, Tom Randle as Laca, and Margaret Medlyn as the Kostelnièka; the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and Vector Wellington Orchestra will deliver all of this, and much more.
The Genesis Energy Spring Season of Jenùfa
AUCKLAND – Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Sat 20, Thu 25 and Sat 27 September (7:30pm), Tue 23 September (6:30pm)
WELLINGTON – St James Theatre
Sat 11, Thu 16 and Sat 18 October (7:30pm), Tue 14 October (6:00pm)
Single Tickets: $49.50 to $159.50; Concessions available. Service fees apply.
Bookings: Ticketek nationwide: Tel 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 538) or www.ticketek.co.nz.
Further information at www.nzopera.com
The NBR New Zealand Opera receives core funding from Creative New Zealand.
The Spring Season of Jenùfa is sponsored by Genesis Energy.
As good as it gets
Review by Roger Wilson 15th Oct 2008
This is as good as it gets, a theatrical experience of immense power. That the cast sings superbly is axiomatic, but somehow the dramatic strength of Jenufa goes beyond the act of singing. If you are an opera enthusiast you will need no prompting, but if you think opera isn’t for you, it’s absolutely essential that you attend this one.
Composer Leos Janácek stands a little apart from the operatic mainstream, making NBR NZ Opera’s choice courageous. Not that Jenufa is a modern piece: it’s been around for over a 100 years and is indisputably one of the few truly great 20th century operas, but it still has the capacity to shock.
Not full of memorable tunes in the conventional sense, this marvellous score is built on speech rhythms in an idiom now folksy, now harsh, and the cast take the demanding Czech language in their stride.
The production imported from Glyndebourne is justly celebrated. The first act beside the mill features an inexorably turning water wheel, while a jagged green background evokes, of all things, a Colin McCahon landscape.
The 2nd and 3rd Acts are set in a Moravian village house, austerely furnished and bleakly side-lit from large windows to show the seasonal changes.
Under the expert direction of Wyn Davis the Vector Wellington Orchestra plays with idiomatic fluency, the chorus is in its customary fine form, the choreography excellent.
In a cast of splendid singing actors all roles great and small are vividly drawn characters: Richard Green and Carmel Carrol the pompous mayoral couple, Kate Lineham their insufferable daughter, a restrained Helen Medlyn as the Grandmother, Jamie Allen as the despicable Števa. Tenor Tom Randle is marvellous as the gauche but honourable Laca as is Anne Sophie Duprels as the much wronged but magnanimous Jenufa.
But greatest of all is the Kostelnicka of Margaret Medlyn – Janácek could have written it with her in mind.
She has done many fine things in the theatre, but this exceptionally powerful vocal and dramatic portrayal is her best yet, an emotionally torn woman whose maternal instincts conflict with the narrow-minded societal confines which she herself embodies, forcing her into a terrible act of infanticide. Yet this is not just a brutal tale of dysfunction and crime. The opera ends on a note of forgiveness and reconciliation; this is the true genius of Janácek.
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Fine portrayal rewards long wait for landmark opera
Review by William Dart 22nd Sep 2008
The NBR New Zealand Opera’s Jenufa is an operatic landmark in this country. We have waited too long to experience the genius of this Janacek opera which, though set in a Moravian village a century ago, has a truth and relevance that still resonates today.
There might be grim goings-on in the course of the opera, but the heroine’s transcendence over them is our reward. [More]
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Wonderful, deeply moving, highly recommended
Review by Penny Dodd 22nd Sep 2008
The curtain rises and the drama begins immediately, the scene: a bleak valley with a solid brick mill house and its inexorable mill wheel, accompanied by motivic xylophone. Restless rhythms undercut what could have been a peaceful peasant scene – a grandmother and young woman peeling potatoes in a high walled compound with Moravian mountains and a steep grassy bank looming over them.
A young man approaches, a love story, of course, but this is a complex, disturbed and ultimately transcendent love story, with subtle shadings, surprising and deep emotion, bitterness, tragedy and finally, redemption.
The ease with which the story unfolds and grips you with its power and humanity is deceptive. We are being swept along by the psychological drama, drawn in to the story and invited to feel, through the power of the music and the words, the emotions of the characters.
You can forget you are in a theatre with performers and orchestra, and simply lose yourself. I barely need to glance at the surtitles to know what is happening – there is only one thing that is happening – the story. This is dramatic musical synthesis of the highest order, staged and sung with tremendous skill and sensitivity.
Anne Sophie Duprels is simply gorgeous as Jenufa – the young woman, her life full of promise; we follow her through beauty and ugliness, delight and tragedy, birth and death to a place where she has nothing left, and she humbles us with her gift of forgiveness. Her voice, glorious and warm, negotiates Janacek’s lines with ease and beauty.
The Kostelnicka, embittered by life, has turned to power as her salvation and is led to murder a baby in the name of respectability. This heinous crime undoes her and we watch her descent from rigid pride to a helpless ruined woman with horror and compassion. Margaret Medlyn lets none of us off the hook in her portrayal, the Czech sounds gut wrenching, the power and range of her dramatic soprano never wavering.
Laca, sung thrillingly by tenor Tom Randle, is a character who seems petty, mean, annoying, and whose professions of love for Jenufa do not convince, and we are proved right to distrust him when he "accidentally on purpose" slashes her face in order to disfigure her. Morally it seems questionable that he should win Jenufa in the end. But this is where the opera transcends easy solutions and Laca is revealed as a loyal devoted man driven by strong passion, and Jenufa cannot judge him for his sin when she too has sinned in the name of love.
Understudy Derek Hill turns in a convincing performance as Steva, the father of Jenufa’s baby, who rejects her once her beauty is destroyed by Laca. Perhaps he seems a little young in the role, but he sang with firm assurance and carried the day.
Many delights are to be found in the minor roles. Helen Medlyn’s rich mezzo as the wise grandmother anchors the emotional story as head of the family. Kate Lineham’s Karolka is a delightful air headed characterisation that bursts onto the stage with wonderful trivial energy. Similarly Carmel Carroll and Richard Green, as the mayor and mayoress contribute much in the way of establishing the kind of conservative society that would punish Jenufa for her trangressions.
Under the guidance of John Rosser, the Chapman Tripp opera chorus is in fine voice, and delivers moments of bucolic charm and later real mob menace as the men trash the Kostelnicka’s house, again reinforcing the true danger that the Kostelnicka is endeavouring to shield Jenufa from.
Wyn Davies conducts with terrific sense of the drama, moving it along at just the right pace, always in touch with the stage, and producing fine tone and balance from the orchestra. The Auckland Philharmonia tackles the score most creditably, with brutal bursts of energy where required, and fine solo playing.
The lighting design by Paul Hastie accompanies the action intelligently, focusing the drama, and contributing to the appropriate mood – from the subtle shifts in the sky above the mountains to the stark brightness of the wedding scene.
An interesting note from Nicholas Tarling’s introduction in the programme concerns the Czech language. Much has been made of Janacek’s fascination with the speech rhythms, and the folk music of Moravia. To put this in context adds a greater significance. Jenufa is supposedly sent to Vienna – the equivalent of "going up North for a while" the euphemism for the sequestering of unmarried mothers. Why Vienna? Isn’t this a Czech opera? In fact at the time Janacek’s birthplace in eastern Moravia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czech was not even an official language. Janacek’s collection of folk songs and speech rhythm takes on a stronger hue – as part of a rising Czech nationalism.
NBR NZ Opera in presenting Janacek’s Jenufa with the Glyndebourne stamp assures us of a world class production of an opera that, even though it is immediate and not obscure, nevertheless is challenging for all. We need to be able to mount operas from the less frequently performed composers such as Janacek, firstly because they are great works, and secondly so that we are not mired in a "top ten" mentality, and the opera house needs to be able to survive the experience. If this means an international alliance, then reserving this kind of co-operative effort for such repertoire as Jenufa is a good move. This is opera of the highest international standard with an excellent local and international cast. It is wonderful, deeply moving, highly recommended.
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