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Janacek - Jenufa

Grandmother Buryjovka – Susan Gorton

Kostelnicka – Susan Bickley

Jenufa – Nuccia Focile

Laca Klemen – Peter Hoare

Steva Buryja - - Stephen Rooke

Foreman – Eddie Wade

Mayor – James Robinson May

Karolka – Charlotte Ellett


Sian Edwards  - Conductor

Katie Mitchell – Director

Vicki Mortimer – Designer

Nigel J Edwards – Lighting

Welsh National Opera Birmingham Hippodrome 19 November 2008


Katie Mitchell’s production is now ten years old but it has lost none of its vibrancy and it was matched by a cast with strong dramatic abilities.

From the opening bars of the overture, when that implied time bomb starts ticking in the background, it was obvious that Sian Edwards had the orchestra tightly coiled like a spring ready to respond to every nuance in Janacek’s atmospheric score.


As Jenufa, Nuccia Focile sings with great sincerity and her portrayal conveys a mix of defencelessness with a certain wayward bravado, adding up to a woman who is pushed to the edge of her endurance and even sanity.


However it is the Kostelnicka of Susan Bickely that is the true lynch pin.   Terrifyingly resolute in her maintenance of social status, even though it involves the murder of an unwanted child, and remarkable as her mental collapse as conscience and remorse kick in.   In the last act she appears to have visibly shrunk – a stellar performance.


Both Steva and Laca are strongly sung by Stephen Rooke and Peter Hoare respectively, with good commanding voices and well differentiated temperaments.  Susan Gorton (Grandmother Buryjovka) and Eddie Wade (Foreman) pulled their full vocal and dramatic weight and there were pleasing cameos from Charlotte Ellett as Karolka and James Robinson May as a rather young looking Mayor (standing in for the indisposed Alastair Moore).


The chorus sang with vigour and expertly reflected their changing emotions.   They pressed forward to peer through the windows with fascinated horror after the child’s body is recovered and seemed close to outraged violence. 


Altogether this was a superb evening, and the sort of performance that over the years has built WNO its enviable reputation.


Serena Fenwick


Photo credit:  Clive Barda - Jenufa