Jenůfa Receives Its Santa Fe Opera Premiere


The Santa Fe Opera recently introduced Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa to audiences for the first time in the company’s 63 year history. A co-production between Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera and the English National Opera, David Alden’s production of Jenůfa, now adapted to the Santa Fe Opera’s stage, updates the mis-en-scène from an isolated, tight-knit community in 19th-century Moravia to an impoverished industrial section of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. 

Jenůfa centers on a terrible crime — the drowning of the title character’s newborn infant in an icy river. Jenůfa’s stepmother Kostelnička commits this unspeakable act out of a sense of fear, misguided morality, and perhaps most shockingly, out of a sense of love in hoping to give her stepdaughter a better life. Remarkably, the opera’s overriding theme is forgiveness, as Jenůfa reacts not with calls for vengeance, but with tender absolution — a scene set to some of Janáček’s most radiant music. 

The Rough Guide to Opera states, “Janáček’s operas are amongst the most powerful, accessible and distinctive ever written: once he had found his voice in Jenůfa, his personal style — terse, lyrical, pungently characterized, full of colorful orchestration and rhythmic bite — was recognizable in every bar he wrote. Though Janáček was born the year after Verdi completed La traviata, his best music belongs decisively to the 20th-century: the last four operas and several other masterpieces were composed in an astonishing burst of creativity in the last decade of his life.”

The Santa Fe Opera’s first showing of Jenůfa brings Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company Johannes Debus to the pit in his Santa Fe Opera debut. American soprano and former Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Laura Wilde once again assumes the title role in her company debut, having also performed it for London audiences in the ENO’s 2016 revival. American soprano Patricia Racette, the original Jenůfa when this production first appeared in Houston and Washington, debuts the role of Kostelnička. American mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer returns to the Santa Fe Opera stage in the role of Grandmother Buryjovka. The rival half-brothers are sung by Australian tenor Alexander Lewis as Laca, making his company debut, and American tenor and former Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Richard Trey Smagur as Števa. Former Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Will Liverman sings the role of the Foreman at the Mill. Charles Edwards (scenic design), Jon Morell (costume design), and Duane Schuler (lighting design) round out the Creative Team. Susanne Sheston serves as Chorus Master.

Jenůfa is the fourth of five mainstage shows in the Santa Fe Opera’s 2019 Season. Additional showings of Jenůfa are on August 2, 6 & 15, 2019.

The 2019 Season

The 2019 summer festival runs from June 28 to August 24 and will present five operas in 36 performances, a special Santa Fe Opera debut concert by celebrated American soprano Renée Fleming with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra led by Music Director Harry Bicket, and two Apprentice Scenes performances. The 63rd Season, the first to be led by General Director Robert K. Meya, Artistic Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Harry Bicket, explores classic works of the repertory as well as operas new to the Santa Fe Opera and the world’s stage.

About The Santa Fe Opera

Lauded by The Wall Street Journal as “the Rolls-Royce of American summer opera festivals,” the Santa Fe Opera annually draws 85,000 people from New Mexico and around the globe. Nestled atop a mountain vista in northern New Mexico, the company’s iconic Crosby Theatre offers a nightly seating capacity of 2,126. The covered theatre is open on three sides, allowing visitors to enjoy performances complemented by the elements. Since 1957 the company has presented over 2,000 performances of 168 operas by 87 composers, including 15 world premieres and 45 American premieres. Learn more on the company’s website.