Malmö Operas dvd-inspelning av Janaceks Jenufa vald till Critic´s Choice i OPERA NEWS

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Bilder: Malin Arnesson

Dvd-recension av Malmö Opera´s Jenufa  by William R Braun

Sunnergårdh, Sjöberg, Tobiasson, Frank, Bäckström Orchestra and Chorus of Malmö Opera, Ivanovic. Production: Phelan. ArtHaus 101 665 121 mins, subtitled

In most of the audio recordrings made of Jenufa over the years, not all of  the four principal roles are beautifully sung. Some singers, and perhaps some listeners, would say that fine singing is not the point of such an emotional opera, but in the present video recording, made at Sweden s Malmo Opera in 2011, all four principals  sing admirably. (As a bonus, even elderly Grandmother Buryja, played by Ingrid Tobiasson , sings with a fine tone.)

Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnergardh attracted attention at the Met in 2006, when she made a last-minute company debut as Leonore in a broadcast performances of Fidelio. She gives a fully rounded portrayal   of Jenufa, light and cool with her grandmother  in the first scene, full of kindness for the  wayward Steva but raising to great dignity as she gradually  realizes how she will have to take care of herself .The early part of her dream scene in Act II is sweedy girlishly sung, but she is clearly a mature woman by the end. Gitta-Maria Sjoberg, as the Kostelnicka, is no one-dimensional villainess in voice or demeanor; thiis is one of the bestsung versions of this character on recordings.

The strenuous tenor role of Laca seems hardly  strenuous at all for Daniel Frank, a romantic,  fine-toned singer.  The role of Steva is a more forgiving vocal assignment for a tenor, and  Joachim Bäckström seizes his chance.

There is of course, a production attached to this excellent performance of the music. lt is by and large a straightforwarded one, staged by Irish director Orpha Phelan and naturalistically acted with recognizable human behaviour, albeit performed on an  Expressionistic set by Leslie Travers. Grandmother really  is peeling those potatoes, expertly. quite experdy Phelan’s stage direction takes particular care to make the stepdaughter-stepmother relationship multilayered.Jenufa is genuinely sympathetic to her stepmother’s story that her husband beat her, and Jenufa  even takes care to warm Kostelnickas hands when she returns from the ghastly secret murder of Jenufas child. The different stories during the wedding in Act III — who was invited, who doesn’t want to speak to whom — are neady delineated. Only the last two minutes, when (apparently) Laca is contemplating the building of a new house with a developer, are a letdown. But even here, when the blistering  orchestral climax is paired with  the    simple gesture of Laca putting his hand on Jeniifa’s, there is still a musically astute image.

The camerawork, in a great service, to music, does not call attention to itself.AIso in service to music, conductor Marko Ivanovic shows skill at differentiating the  ”real” music from the ”operatic” music. After Jenufa learns of the death of her child, i, Ivanovic draws out the  massed-strings lament with true dramatic instincts, and he finds a chamber-music elements in this score that others have missed.

After the performance, this fine Swedish team takes the most deferential, modest set of curtain calls on film.

 Jenufa på Malmö Opera
5 maj, 2013

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