Jenůfa by Leoš Janáček, October, 2017


Music and Libretto by Leoš Janáček
Based on the play Její pastorkyňa by Gabriela Preissová

October 12, 14, 20, 2017, 8 pm.  Wednesday, October 18, 7 pm
Sunday, October 22, 2:30 pm

The Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.

Sung in Czech, with English surtitles
Approximate running time: 165 minutes, including one intermission
Pre-performance talk 1 hour before curtain

Co-produced with Opéra de Montréal


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Above: Scenes from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Jenůfa, with Lara Ciekiewicz, Emilia Boteva, Colin Judson, John Lindsey, Peter McGillivray, Lynne McMurtry, Dion Mazerolle, Maria Soulis, Andrea Hill, Rebecca Hass, Rebecca Genge. Timothy Vernon conducts the Victoria Symphony; Giuseppe Pietraroia directs the Pacific Opera Chorus. With Director Atom Egoyan, Designer Debra Hanson, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Choreographer Melissa Young.
Shine-ola Communications.


Director Atom Egoyan on Jenůfa

Atom Egoyan introduces Jenůfa, one of the most powerful pieces of music theatre. He is returning to his home town of Victoria to direct Pacific Opera Victoria's production.


Atom Egoyan talks about the approach he and designer Debra Hanson are taking as they create POV's production of Jenůfa.


Atom Egoyan discusses Janáček and his innovative use of speech melody to create Jenůfa, an opera that is the best that music theatre can be.



The piece with which Janáček conquered the world.

Internationally known director Atom Egoyan returns to Victoria to direct Leoš Janáček's gripping masterpiece, Jenůfa. This monument of 20th century opera centres on the relationship between two formidable women – Jenůfa and her stepmother – and the consequences when Jenůfa has a child out of wedlock. Janáček's distinctive musical voice, mixing folk harmonies with the rhythms of spoken Czech, is radiant and haunting.



  • Transgression and Forgiveness: A Powerful Jenůfa from Pacific Opera Victoria
    Harvey de Roo reviews POV's production of Jenůfa for Vancouver Classical Music.

    ... as a composer, Janáček ... sounds like no one else. His music occupies a weird and wonderful soundscape, with its short jagged melodies interspersed with longer, intensely lyrical ones, its idiosyncratic vocal writing, its use of the old Moravian modalities, its lightning switches between minor and major, its pungent orchestration. It is highly emotional music, viscerally exciting, sometimes heartbreaking...
    Pacific Opera Victoria ... presented us with a gripping rendition of the tale. The stage direction of Atom Egoyan was direct and to the point, letting the story tell itself ...
    The orchestra under Timothy Vernon displayed fine articulation of this complex score, providing clarity as well as emotional charge. It was kind to the singers, allowing them to be heard at all times. The whole performance, orchestra and vocals, emphasized the lyrical, making for a poignant portrayal of suffering and hope
    Read more.

  • Atom Egoyan directs riveting opera
    Sarah Petrescu of the TImes Colonist reviews POV's production of Jenůfa.

    Riveting drama is at the forefront of Pacific Opera Victoria's production ... But make no mistake, to achieve the emotional depth and connection necessary for the characters, the music has to be effortless and powerful – which it was ... under the direction of maestro Timothy Vernon...
    It's this play between ... traditional and modern values, that drives much of the dramatic tension in this staging of the opera – brilliantly executed by director Atom Egoyan and set and costume designer Debra Hanson.
    The cast wears a mixture of old-world and contemporary clothing, embodying a modern rural village where babushkas carry cellphones and teens in jeans might throw some hip-hop moves into a folk dance...
    Soprano Lara Ciekiewicz is captivating in the title role ... Her performance alone is enough to sustain any casual opera fan through unfamiliar territory.
    As Kostelnicka, mezzo-soprano Emilia Boteva is exceptional in building from restraint to boiled-over raw emotion.
    Jenůfa's lover, Steva, is played by the fittingly cast tenor John Lindsay, who adds some louty levity ... Colin Judson is gripping as the dejected, and eventually accepted, suitor Laca. The tenor's journey from despicable to repentant is complex and satisfying.
    Read more.

  • Pacific Opera's Jenufa opens to rave reviews on opening weekend
    Nathan Kleine Deters reviews Jenůfa for Monday Magazine

    Soaring soprano arias, powerful tenor voices, and a flawless orchestral performance gave viewers something beautiful to take with them as they walked out of the theatre and back into the dark, cold night.
    Read more.

  • Pacific Opera's Jenufa is Egoyan's first Victoria show in 40 years
    Travis Paterson of the Peninsula News Review interviews Atom Egoyan on Jenůfa and on returning to his home turf to direct this riveting opera .

    For the first time in 40 years decorated film director Atom Egoyan is directing a show in Victoria.
    Last time it was The End of Solomon Grundy, when the former Saanich teenager and Mount Douglas secondary grad ran the showcase performance of the 1977 Victoria school drama festival.
    This time the 57-year-old is directing Jenůfa ... a character study ... that deals with darker elements but has music ... that's gripped Egoyan since he first heard it many years ago.
    "... there's no point with all the darkness in the world around us in something that isn't uplifting," he said. "There's something seductive and beautiful in Jenůfa, there has to be, and I think there is in this music and the images on stage, which are compelling."
    Read more.

  • Atom Egoyan drawn to 'hard opera' Jenůfa
    Mike Devlin of the TImes Colonist interviews POV Artistic Director Timothy Vernon and Atom Egoyan, who is directing Jenůfa.

    The challenging but celebrated opera ... is sung entirely in Czech, with a speech rhythm practically unique to Janáček.
    Vernon describes Jenůfa as overwhelming, unusual and extremely intense. "This was a successful but controversial play in its day ... Janáček seized on it and decided to turn it into an opera. He didn't ask for a rhyming libretto or anything; he just took the dialogue. It's natural speech, which gives it a different flavour, as well. It's not rhyming couplets.
    Vernon called upon a longtime friend to assist with the production – two-time Academy Award nominee Atom Egoyan. The Victoria-raised director and screenwriter had wanted to collaborate with Pacific Opera for many years, but it wasn't until Vernon floated the idea of Egoyan directing the Janáček classic that he cleared his schedule to do so.
    Jenůfa marks the first time in 40 years that Egoyan has been involved with a theatrical production on his home turf.
    Read more.

  • Egoyan's Atom-ic Opera
    Hometown Boy Atom Egoyan to launch POV's 2017-2018 Season

    David Lennam of Yam Magazine surveys Atom Egoyan's career in opera and film, recalls his early days in Victoria, and talks with Atom about his return to Victoria to direct Jenůfa,.

    "I want people to luxuriate in this form of drama and great music and great singers" ...
    Jenůfa may be the shadowlands of the soul, and it's been said Egoyan's work dwells in the shadows of humanity... It's a gripping psychological drama, and these are the kind of stories Egoyan's built his career on.
    Read more. (Article begins on page 68.)

  • Filmmaker returns home to bring Pacific Opera's Jenufa to life
    Sara Wilson of Monday Magazine interviews director Atom Egoyan.

    "The glue that brings everything together is this beautiful music. I'm keeping this production as simple as possible to show how amazing this piece of drama is... When I listened to Jenůfa, it was the piece that showed the power of opera. It was unlike anything I've heard before."
    Read more. (Article is on page 5.)


Cast and Creative Team

WIth the Victoria Symphony and the Pacific Opera Chorus



Act One – A lonely mill. Late afternoon

As Grandmother Buryja and Laca work, Jenůfa holds a pot of rosemary and broods on her pregnancy, fervently praying that the father, Števa, will elude conscription into the army so that they can marry before anyone learns her shameful secret.

Grandmother tells Jenůfa to get back to her work. Laca complains that Grandmother has never treated him like family, but has always favoured Števa and has always reminded Laca that he is not her real grandson. Jenůfa scolds him for his rudeness and apologizes to Grandmother, explaining that she had gone off to water her rosemary plant, for if it were to wither, it is said that then all the happiness in the world will dry up.

Jano, a young shepherd boy, bursts in, ecstatic that Jenůfa has taught him to read. She promises to teach him to write as well so that he can better himself. Grandmother compliments Jenůfa on her intelligence; Jenůfa replies that her brain has long since flowed away like water.

As Stárek, the mill foreman, sharpens Laca's knife, he comments on how pretty Jenůfa is. Laca admits he loves her and has jealously put worms into the rosemary pot to make the plant wither, just as he hopes Jenůfa's wedding with Števa will wither. Stárek announces that Števa has not been recruited after all, and Laca fumes at the injustice.

Števa arrives with a group of rowdy army recruits and workers, who hint that he has bought his way out of the army. Jenůfa is overjoyed to see him, then reproaches him for being drunk again. Cocky, charming, Števa celebrates his freedom, revels in the attentions of all the young women, and has the musicians play Jenůfa's favourite song, a rousing folk chorus about a golden-haired boy who falls from the top of a tower of handsome boys, right into his sweetheart's lap.

Daleko, široko do tĕch Nových Zámků;
stavija tam vežu ze samých šohájků...
Far away there in the town of Nových Zámků
stood a high tower built of fine and handsome fellows...

Their merrymaking is cut short by the Kostelnička (Sacristan), Jenůfa's stepmother, who forbids Števa to marry Jenůfa until he has managed to stay sober for a year. Števa is too much like her dead husband, who had been a handsome, violent, drunken wastrel.

Jenůfa begs Števa to stop being so weak and foolish and tells him that if he doesn't marry her in time, she'll have to kill herself. Števa merrily boasts that all the girls flirt with him, then assures Jenůfa that with her rosy cheeks, she's too pretty for him to abandon. Grandmother sends him away to sleep off his drunkenness.

Laca jealously taunts Jenůfa with a flower that one of the girls has given Števa. He tells her Števa loves her only for her rosy cheeks, and warns that the knife he holds could spoil her beauty. He tries to kiss her, and as they struggle, he cuts her cheek with his knife. He is instantly remorseful, crying that he has loved her since childhood.

Act Two – The Kostelnička's home. Five months later. Winter.

To protect Jenůfa's honour, the Kostelnička has hidden the girl away, telling everyone she has gone to Vienna, and praying all the time that Jenůfa might lose the baby. But Jenůfa has given birth to a healthy little boy, whom she has named after his father. Now that the baby is a week old, the Kostelnička sends for Števa, who has never once asked about Jenůfa or the baby.

The Kostelnička gives Jenůfa a sleeping potion and sends her to bed. Števa arrives. He has no interest in seeing the baby, but offers to support the child as long as no one knows he is the father. The Kostelnička pleads desperately for him to save Jenůfa's honour and her own. He tearfully refuses, telling the Kostelnička that Jenůfa is no longer the cheerful, gentle girl he fell in love with; she has turned severe and sorrowful, like the Kostelnička; and the scar on her cheek has left her disfigured. What is more, he is now engaged to the Mayor's daughter Karolka. He rushes away.

Laca, having seen Števa at the house, arrives, hoping that Jenůfa has returned from Vienna and that he might marry her. The Kostelnička reveals that Jenůfa has just had Števa's child. As the stunned Laca asks whether he is expected to take Števa's baby, the Kostelnička frantically blurts out that the baby has died. She sends Laca off to find out when Števa will be married. He promises to return in a moment.

Left alone, the Kostelnička agonizes over what to do.

Co chvíla ... co chvíla ... a já si mám zatím přejít celou vĕčnost, celé spasení?
In a moment ... and in the meanwhile must I lose hope of salvation, of eternity?

She finally determines to send the baby back to God by drowning him in the icy river. She takes the child and leaves.

Jenůfa wakes, groggy, panicky that neither her stepmother nor the baby are there. Finally, assuming the Kostelnička has taken him to the mill to show him off, she prays for the child.

Zdrávas královno, matko milosrdenství,
Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy...

The Kostelnička returns, knocking at the window for Jenůfa to open the door, for her hands are frozen. She tells Jenůfa she's been delirious for two days, during which time the baby has died. Jenůfa is heartbroken, but the Kostelnička tells her she is now free. She reveals that Števa has no interest in Jenůfa or the baby and that he is about to marry Karolka. She urges Jenůfa to marry Laca, who knows the truth and has forgiven her.

Laca returns and asks Jenůfa to marry him. She demurs that she has no property, has lost her virtue and no longer loves the world as she did before. When he assures her he wants her, she accepts his proposal. As the Kostelnička blesses the couple, an icy wind blows in through the window, and she becomes hysterical, crying that it is as if death were peering in.

Act 3. The Kostelnička's house. Jenůfa's wedding day.

The Kostelnička has been ill, despondent, tormented with guilt. The Mayor and his wife arrive for the simple wedding. Laca gives Jenůfa flowers. She thanks him for standing by her, and he tells her he has done as she asked and reconciled with Števa. Karolka and Števa arrive, and a group of girls sing a song wishing Jenůfa well.

Ej, mamko, mamko, mamko moja!
Zjednejte mi nové šaty, já se budu vydávati. Ej!
Hey, mother, mother, little mother mine!
You must give me fine new clothes now, For I shall be married today. Hey!

Grandmother Buryja blesses Laca and Jenůfa. As the Kostelnička is about to conduct the ceremony, shouts are heard. A baby has been found, frozen in the ice of the river.

Jenůfa is distraught when she recognizes from the clothes that it is little Števa. The townspeople, believing Jenůfa has killed the child, call for her death, but Laca threatens anyone who touches her. The Kostelnička confesses her guilt, blurting out the whole story. Karolka, realizing that Števa is the father, calls off their wedding. Laca blames himself for scarring Jenůfa and causing so much misery.

The Kostelnička admits she was thinking more of her own good name than of Jenůfa and begs forgiveness. Jenůfa forgives her and asks God to comfort her. As the Kostelnička is taken away for trial, Jenůfa tells Laca to go to, as she is not worthy of him.

Odešli. Jdio také!
Však včil vidíš, že s mým bĕdným životem svůj spojit nemůžeš!
They have gone! Now you go!
Surely you see now that my wretched life cannot ever be linked with yours.
Be with God ... and remember, and remember
that you were the best person,
the best person I have ever met in the world ...

She assures him she has long since forgiven him, for, like her, he had sinned out of love. She warns that when she is called to court, everyone will look at her with contempt. He replies that he will stand by her. What does the world matter, if we have one another for consolation!


Note on family relationships in the opera

As explained in the play Její pastorkyňa (Her Stepdaughter) by Gabriela Preissová, from which Janáček's libretto was drawn, there are three generations of women in the Buryja family: Grandmother Buryja, a miller's widow; her daughter-in-law, the Kostelnička (Sacristan of the village chapel); and the Kostelnička's stepdaughter Jenůfa.

Grandmother Buryja had two sons, both now dead. The older had inherited the mill and married a wealthy widow with a son, Laca. The couple had a son together, Števa, who has now inherited the mill and the family fortune.

Grandmother Buryja's younger son, a violent drunkard, had two wives – Jenůfa's mother, now dead, and the Kostelnička, who has acted as a devoted foster mother to Jenůfa. Jenůfa is Števa's first cousin and is hopelessly in love with him. Števa's stepbrother Laca loves Jenůfa and is bitterly jealous of Števa.

Maureen Woodall




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