Further information here.
That Eva-Maria Westbroek (born 1971) spend the initial years of her career with endless and futile auditions leading her nowhere must make one or another opera administrator reflect just a bit as she is now establishing herself as the probably finest jugendlich-dramatische soprano of today. With a wonderful blooming quality of her voice, Eva-Maria Westbroek furthermore is a terrific actress, making it virtually impossible to not be deeply moved by this Jenufa´s fate.
Equally convincing were both leading gentlemen, particularly Stefan Margita´s superbly sung Laca, but also Joseph Kaiser as Steva. While Deborah Polaski may have more voice for the part of Kostelnicka that many of those who sing it today, a stronger stage presence (never her main asset) would have made a major difference, particularly in a character part like this. Curiously, Helga Dernesch, whom I thought belonged to the past, took the part as the Old Burya.
As the entire cast were excellent actors, it was rather disappointing how little use Barbara Frey made of them, with a rather uninteresting personenregie. She has updated Jenufa until present day, but provides little more than a traditional static theatric setting without the true interpersonal drama, which Janacek´s opera seems so full of.
Massive applause to conductor Kirill Petrenko, though I fail to see entirely why. The orchestra sounded both transparent and beautiful, but way too passive and bloodless, at least to my taste. In fact, the style of playing reminds very much of Kent Nagano, hardly a coincidence, as he is music director of the house. Why this sort of bloodless playing is so admired in Munich, is rather strange, at least to me. And even more so when Kent Nagano conducts Parsifal. But that is another topic altogether.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Eva-Maria Westbroek: 5
Stefan Margita: 5
Joseph Kaiser: 4-5
Deborah Polaski: 3
Barbara Frey: 3
Kirill Petrenko: 4
Overall impression: 4