Saturday, 29 December 2007

DVD: Nina Stemme in Jenufa

Jenufa. Liceu Barcelona, 2005. Production: Olivier Tambosi. Cast: Nina Stemme (Jenufa), Eva Marton (Kostelnicka), Jorma Silvasti (Laca). Conductor: Peter Schneider. Further information here.

This is a DVD of the same Olivier Tambosi production of Jenufa, that played earlier this season at both the Los Angeles and Metropolitan opera houses and has previously been seen in Hamburg and Barcelona, where this DVD was recorded live in 2005.

The center of the production is a stone symbolizing Jenufa´s troubles/baby: Just appearing from beneath the earth in Act one, mighty overshadowing everything in Act two and shattered to pieces in Act three. Anyone with a basic course in psychoanalysis may join in here.

Otherwise the sets are simplistic and make a fine backdrop for the action and highlights why this is a masterpiece: Janacek´s detailed characteristics of the protagonists both in words and music are almost unrivalled.

The protagonists are first-rate with Nina Stemme (Jenufa), Eva Marton (Kostelnicka) and Jorma Silvasti (Laca).

There is something in the colour of Nina Stemme´s voice, which has never appealed to me, though this should take anything away from her performance, which was both deep felt and moving. And she has excellent chemistry with Eva Marton´s both well-sung and excellently acted Kostelnicka, a prerequisite for a successful performance of this opera. The first really good performance I´ve heard from Eva Marton since her voice started to deteriorate almost 20 years ago. Just as long as she stays with Kostelnicka and doesn´t return to Ortrud.

My main problem with this DVD lies with the Peter Schneiders orchestra, which is unfortunately rather unspectacular and no math for Andrew Davis London Philharmonics on the only alternative Jenufa DVD from Glyndebourne 1989.

Which of the two versions to prefer is, as always, a matter of taste: Lehnhoffs Glyndbourne production is fine, though psychoanalytically claustrophobic and Roberta Alexander may not match Nina Stemmes engagement, though she is a fine Jenufa.

What I would really wish for, however, is a version with Karita Mattila and a first-rate Janacek conductor. I suppose this DVD release unfortunately precludes the release of the Metropolitan production with Karita Mattila and Anja Silja as it is the same production.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Nina Stemme: 4
Eva Marton: 4
Jorma Silvasti: 4

Olivier Tambosi´s production: 4

Peter Schneider: 3

Overall impression: 4

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