Karlos, Melinda, Richard, Barbara, and I saw *Jenufa* at the Met on 10/28. This was my third time seeing this opera: I saw it in Chicago back in 2000 and at the Met in 2007. It's a tremendous piece, coursing with emotion and drama, written in 1904 by Czech composer Leos Janacek. Janacek is sometimes referred to as "the Czech Puccini," and while I don't think they necessarily needed their own Puccini, they were lucky to have him. His operas have more intellectual content than Puccini, but they're not sparing on the emotional oomph.
It's the story of a young woman who's in love with a cad tenor and pursued by a dope tenor. The biggest complication is supplied by her stepmother, a frosty upright citizen of the community. Not a bad person, but not what my mother would call NICE. Actually, the claustrophobia, Christian rectitude, and Peyton Place-esque seediness under the surface had me thinking of my hometown quite a lot. Who knew Delavan, Wisconsin was so much like a Czech village circa 1904?
Jenufa was played by Oksana Dyka. She has a beautiful, strong voice, and gave the performance her all, but she didn't have the aching vulnerability that I like to see in this role. I looked at the other roles she does, and I don't think of Jenufa as a sister to Turandot. Not at all.
The dope, Laca, was played by Daniel Brenna. He played Alwa in the Met's new *Lulu* a couple years ago and I don't have much of a memory of him in that part, but oh yes, he made a big impression this time. A ripe, strong, fearless voice, and a warm and sweet stage presence. Bonus points for being from Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin! I see that he has a few Siegfrieds coming up in the next year, so I'm saying a prayer for him right now.
The star of the show was one of my favorite singers ever, Finnish soprano Karita Mattila. She played Jenufa when the Met did it in 2007 and was now playing the stepmother, a perfect role for her at this stage in her career. She sang with conviction and beauty and acted up a storm. She's a powerful actor with an intense physicality - - I have many memories of her Met performances over the years: doing the splits as Salome, making something poetic out of the rigid poses in the Robert Wilson *Tannhaueser*, rushing through the autumn leaves in *Eugene Onegin*. Most dazzlingly, the most powerful moment I have ever seen onstage in my life, in Janacek's *Katya Kabanova* - - she was alone onstage near the end of the opera, when all seemed lost. The orchestra was playing a brief, quiet, intense interlude and she was standing with her back to the audience and very slowly turned to look over her shoulder with the longing and desperation coursing through every freaking CELL of her being! Oh dear Lord it was shattering. She is what we call "a stage animal" and I hope we have many more years of performances from her.
But her behavior at the curtain call was not sportsmanlike. They did your typical building up kind of curtain call, starting with the small parts and gradually working their way up to the leads. The cad tenor came on, bowed, took his place on the right. The dope tenor came on, bowed, took his place on the left. And Mattila, the second lead, waited about ten seconds too long before coming out for her bow. Like she wanted the audience to WANT it. That's cheap. Of course the audience went coo coo for Cocoa Puffs over her. She stood there and drank it all in, which is her due. She eventually had enough, walked back, and stood next to the cad tenor, gave him a kiss. Then walked over to the dope tenor and gave HIM a kiss, just as the freaking LEADING LADY, Oksana Dyka, walked onstage. And Mattila turned, a bit surprised, and applauded her. "Oh, there's someone else in this show?"