SFOpera - Three Jenůfas

Three Jenůfas

Starting in 1895, Janáček labored on Act I of Jenůfa for two years, then set the opera aside. He returned to it late in 1901 and completed the score on January 18, 1903. The work made a sensation at its premiere in Brno’s National Theatre on January 21, 1904 (although the house orchestra lacked flutes, harp, bass clarinet, and English horn).

Even after a 1908 revision, Jenůfa was denied stage time at Prague’s National Theatre until 1916—not because Prague dismissed Moravia as a backwater (as Janáček believed), but because Karel Kovařovic, Prague’s house director, nursed a grudge. In 1887, in one of his deftly worded reviews, Janáček had savaged Kovařovic’s opera The Bridegroom. Only after the two men reconciled did Jenůfa play in Prague, and to huge acclaim. But that 1916 version included Kovařovic’s cuts and re-orchestrations. In 1996, conductor Sir Charles Mackerras (San Francisco Opera Principal Guest Conductor from 1993 to 1996) and musicologist John Tyrrell published an edition of the 1908 revision, reflecting the composer’s own final work on the opera. The Mackerras/Tyrrell edition, today the standard performing version of Jenůfa, is presented here.

Larry Rothe is author of the San Francisco Symphony history Music for a City, Music for the World and co-author of For the Love of Music.

Conductor's Note
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