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Jenufa: the text is part of the chapter Janacek's work on the stage of the Brno National Theatre.

The next Brno Janacek premiere [after The Beginning of a Romance] was Jenufa, staged in 1904. Shortly before that, however, the Brno National Theatre had given the premiere of another work by Janacek, Our Father. Three works were staged at the theatre premises inVeveri ulice on 15 June 1901 in cooperation with Brno's Tyl amateur theatre club: Zavodiste by Gabriela Preissova, Ze svetla do tmy ... by Jaroslav Havranek and of course Janacek's Our Father. Thework was enacted as five tableaux vivants inspired by the paintings of the Polish artist Jozef Mecina-Krzesz, apparently in the version with a solo tenor, mixed chorus, harmonium and harp (as the orchestra lacked a harpist, this was replaced by a piano), and was conducted by Max Koblizek. Once again, Jenufa made it onto the stage of the theatre in Veveri ulice only after its rejection by Prague's National Theatre. The director, Gustav Schmoranz, wrote to Janacek on 28 April 1903: "I sincerely regret that we cannot accept your opera for performance. We would wish your work to meet on the stage with complete success for you and for us, but we fear that your work would not have this type of success. We return both the full score and the piano-vocal score."

Janacek reached a decision to entrust the opera to the Brno theatre, which in a letter from 8 October 1903 accepted both the work and the composer's conditions regarding orchestral forces. However, the decision to give the premiere of the composer's new work was not taken until after the publication of the schedule for the season 1903/04, so Jenufa does not appear in any printed promotional material for the season 1903/04 and was not even discussed by the committee of the Druzstvo. It was clearly the initiative of the then director Alois Stanek Doubravsky which made it possible to go ahead with the work. In October the copying out of the performance material began and in December the soloists and the choir already knew their parts, although the orchestra did not begin to rehearse until early 1904. Interestingly, the orchestra parts were written with a prelude--the overture Jealousy--although this was never performed with the opera (the only exception being the Brno performance of 2.1 January 1954.). The preparations did not proceed as idyllically and enthusiastically as is often suggested; this is best demonstrated by the recollection of Cyril Metodej Hrazdira, the conductor of the first staging, from 1924:

When I had given out the parts and the first coaching sessions began, what I too had Feared Cd MC to pass. The singers were reluctant to smg it, shook their heads over it and handed back the parts [...] Janacek had come to the very first coaching sessions. Lingering reluctance on the part of the singers, difficulties in the studying process, and on top of that the presence or the composer gave rise to such a gloomy mood that Janacek became convinced that it was impossible to study the work, asked him not to join us at rehearsals for at least a Fortnight arid I assured him that it would "work out." Sure enough, after about three weeks I invited him along. He came, he followed the rehearsal closely, he smiled and, giving me his hand, he said in his unique way: "Now I believe that it will work out."

Tension also prevailed at the orchestral rehearsals, as an undated letter from Janacek to Kamila Urvalkova testifies:

Today I returned from the first full rehearsal of Act I thoroughly fed up. There was such a wretched argument between' the director [of the theatre.] and the conductor that it left mc feeling on edge. The 'trumpet player', reprimanded during the rehearsal, took it so much to heart that he got dangerously drunk. He no longer recognized any 'authority'. He swore at everyone like a trooper. It was like a stone which is thrown and brings down an avalanche with it--which in this case would have badly damaged my premiere. With difficulty they managed to straighten out and reconcile everything in order to complete the rehearsal.

Shortly before the premiere Janacek visited Prague in order to personally invite Karel Kovarovic, the chief conductor of the National Theatre, to the premiere; however, he did not come because of a visit to the French Riviera for his health (he eventually attended another performance in December). With the approaching premiere, which was set for 21 January 1904, more and more reports appeared in the press about the forthcoming musical sensation. Alongside the conductor Hrazdira, the production was undertaken by the theatrical director Josef Maly. The Kostelnicka was portrayed by Leopoldina Svobodova, Jenufa by Marie Kabelacova, Laca by Alois Stanek-Doubravsky, and Steva by Theodor Schatz (real name Bohdan Prochazka). The premiere was literally a triumph for the author:


Yesterday Maestro Janacek was not only the object of enthusiastic ovations in the theatre, but was also celebrated in the Readers' Club. On his way from the theatre to the Besedni dum the audience formed a guard of honour and impatiently awaited the maestro. When servants went by with wreaths and bouquets curiosity mounted. As soon as the maestro appeared with the conductor Hrazdira and the actors, the audience cheered for maestro Janacek; and accompanied he composer all the way to the Besedni dum.

A whole range of reviews came out alter the premiere--the Brno ones more celebratory and the Prague ones more critical. They were mostly concerned with the work itself rather than the way it was performed. For the most part the reviewers expressed praise for the performances of the protagonists and the dedication of the conductor, Hrazdira. One serious shortcoming of the staging was the absence of some instruments which played an important part in the score: the cor anglais and bass clarinet. The lack of a harpist in the orchestra at that time was apparently resolved during the premiere by inviting a guest player. There was only a single player of the flute, the oboe and even the second violin. The situation grew worse with each performance so that by 2 February 1904 the performance was close to catastrophic:

Through its ramshackle, even offensive rendition, not only is the artistic reputation of the theatre damaged but the work itself. which has just garnered such success, is also being killed off. We expected more reverence towards Moravian art from the management! It casts a curious shadow on the artist it leadership of the theatre when Jenufa is staged without, a flute, where the composer has stipulated three in the score! It was not until noon on Tuesday that a flautist was sent for from Zidenice and he was supposed to play without a rehearsal. That is quite impossible. So we experienced Jenufa without a flute. [...] But on Tuesday it was not only a Jenufa staged without a flute but also with ailing powers. Since Sunday Miss Kabelacova has been unable to sing, Mr Stanek-Doubravsky too. Because of that she had to leave out Jenufa's prayer in the 2nd act, and the exquisite imitation of the choir "Every couple must endure its sorrow" remained unsung. We will pass over other places in the opera, recalling that they caused the listener embarrassment and that we trembled in anticipation of how this or that place would turn out. [...] Other parts of the performance were also very weak, especially in the 1st act. It has been a long time since we have heard such disharmonies, uncoordinated ensemble and out-of tune fingering in the strings.

Nevertheless, Janacek attempted to invite Gustav Mahler, the conductor of the Vienna Court Opera, to Brno for the repeat performances, but in vain. Jenufa had eight repeat performances on the stage of Brno's National Theatre, with the last one taking place on 7 February 1905. In addition, in May 1904 the Brno theatre gave guest performances of this production in Ceske Budejovice and Pisek. In 1904 Janacek was paid the sum of 146 crowns for the work's performance (the premiere and eight repeat performances at 12 crowns, two tours at 8 crowns and 10 crowns for the loan of the score). Antos J. Fryda, the director of the Czech National Theatre, asked the composer for another staging in a letter from 5 July 1906. The musical side was once again taken on by the conductor Cyril Metodej Hrazdira, and before the beginning of rehearsals on 11 July 1906 he suggested to Janacek some cuts which would help increase the dramatic momentum: "It chiefly concerns both ensembles: "A vy muzikanti jdete dom ..." and "Kazdy parek si musi svoje trapeni prestat ..." Janacek clearly revised these very places and apparently at that time also removed the Kostelnicka's aria "Aji on byl zlatohrivy". The first public performance of the new staging under the direction of Eduard Aschenbrenner took place on 25 September 1906 in Moravska Ostrava, after which two repeat performances followed in Brno (a planned performance in Olomouc evidently did not Lake place). For this production Janacek received the sum of 42 crowns (i tour at 8 crowns, 2 performances in Brno at 12 crowns, to crowns for the loan of the score). However, once again there was a significant problem with the incompleteness of the orchestra and rebellious singers:

[...] in the orchestra in place of the promised 28 sat barely 20 people. (According to my reckoning, the following played: 4 first violins, 2 seconds, 2 violas, 2 violincellos and 2 contrabasses, and one each of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet. horn and trombone. i player saw to the percussion instruments. The piccolo was entirely missing.) [...] Only the groaning of the first violins (at times unbearably Out of tune) and the grating sawing of the contrabasses were audible; at times the rolls of the timpani drowned everything out, or the brass mournfully howled ... It left mc with a feeling of anxiety--anxiety and shame! [...] The behaviour of some of the individuals on stage was offensively coarse, vulgar and unartistic. In places I had the impression that the chorus (and even some soloists, e.g. Mr. Pokorny and others) were making fun of the work.

It may well be that the slapdash staging was the reason for Janacek's dispute with the committee of the Druzstvo of the Czech National Theatre in Brno over the presentation of the opera Fate and even led to the composer's request for the return of the score of Jenufa, as a written reply from the theatre's director Fryda from 11 December 1906 testifies. At the turn of the year 1906/1907 Janacek once again revised the returned score, however this time much more extensively. He modified and shortened some of the scenes, particularly in the first and second acts, added extra instrumentation to some places, cut down on repetition and part of Laca's scene in the second act when he reproaches himself for being to blame for Jenufa's misfortune. Overall the revisions served to play down the emphasis on folklore as well as the veristic tone. The revisions subsequently had to be incorporated into the performance material, the piano score and the orchestral parts. It was this version of the opera's piano vocal score which was published by the Club of the Friends of Art in Brno in 1908.

The revised Jenufa was subsequently advertised in the theatre's leaflet for the subscription series for the season 1908/09 with a note that this was a new musical arrangement. Janacek was informed about the preparation of a new production by the theatrical director Karel Komarov in a letter from 30 August 19o8: "After a lengthy consultation with Mrs Preissova, master Uprka and others about where best to locate Jenufa, the education advisor Mr Mud drew my attention to the Breclav area, and more specifically to Kostice and Lanzhot. According to a decision by the Druzstvo committee I will therefore go there, probably at the end of September, to take a look at the setting for the mise-en-scene and folk costumes." Janacek was very much taken with the idea of this new production, as is illustrated by a letter from 31 July 1908 addressed to Dr Jaroslav Elgart, a member of the Druzstvo committee, which indicates that as well as the director, the conductor of the new staging had already been decided upon: "I even asked the director Fryda to leave Jenufa in the repertoire now that there is the piano score. After all, remember with what sort of orchestra it had been performed so far! The premiere without flutes and at other times only ever half the colours. I also have faith in Mr Moor, that he will make a good job of it." However, in the end the staging did not come about.



We are informed of possible reasons via the minutes of the committee meetings of the National Theatre Druzstvo. During the eventful days culminating in the crisis of the Druzstvo committee, which has been discussed above, Dr Jaroslav Elgart put forward a proposal to a committee meeting on 7 December 1908 that Jenufa be presented once more on the Brno stage, especially if it was listed as part of the repertoire for the season. The chairman Dr Otakar Prazak and Dr Felix Rudis strongly objected to this, claiming that there was no obligation to put on Janacek's works in the theatre. From the context it is clear that arguments against Janacek's works being given in Brno had previously been put forward by Rudis in the committee, although minutes from that period have not been preserved. However, Elgart continued to promote Janacek, saying that the theatre "has an obligation to see that the opera of Janacek, an outstanding Moravian composer, is staged." The voting, however, turned out badly for Jenufa; with a ratio of 4 to 5 votes it was decided not to present the opera. However, Elgart took advantage of the crisis in the committee and when both Prazak and Rudis resigned their membership on 25 January 1909, at the very next meeting three days later he had another vote taken about the presentation of Jenufa, which turned out favourably this time. Despite this, the opera never made it onto the stage of the Brno theatre in the 1908/09 season or the following one.

The question of why Jenufa had not been staged in Brno was also put to the committee by Jan Kunc at a general meeting of the Druzstvo on 29 June 1910. He received the reply that "the director conveyed that some members of the opera were reluctant to sing in Jenufa." In a report published the following day in Lidove noviny, a different answer to Kunc's question is recorded: "Messrs. Zlabek and Rudis explained that the composer does not wish a repeat performance of this opera." Janacek thanked Kunc for his intercession in a letter from 3o June 1910: "Thank you for your question. It is good that I had left as I would have been embarrassed.

If Professor Zlabek and Dr. Rudis replied to you as it says in today's Lidove noviny, then they did not speak the truth. This is the fourth year that the director has wanted to give Jenufa--and yet it never comes about. The aforementioned gentlemen evidently know the reason why." Immediately afterwards Janacek also lodged a protest against the report from the general meeting in Lidove noviny in the brief article Why is Jenufa not being given at the Brno National Theatre?: 'The composer Director Leos Janacek writes to us: "I read with astonishment in the report of the general meeting of the theatre druzstvo the reply of Prof. Zlabek and Dr. Rudis to Mr. Kunc's question of why Jenufa is not being given. It is untrue that I do not wish for this opera to be staged." There was yet another dimension to this affair: at the general meeting the remark was heard from the mouth of Jan Kunc that Janacek did not wish a "Hrazdira-esque" production of Jenufa. This issue was dealt with at length in the Moravske hudebni noviny, which called on the conductor Cyril M. Hrazdira to comment on this unpleasant situation: "At the time when I performed Jenufa, Janacek could not find enough words of admiration for me--and he set mc up as a conductor of the first rank in the Czech lands; both he and Chvala." The author of the article, Janacek's pupil and colleague from the organ school Ladislav Kozusnicek, admitted that not all the performances were of the same standard, but he defended Hrazdira, who himself wrote:



Every conductor already has an enemy in everyone in the theatre insomuch as he is a conductor, and I perhaps even more so insomuch as I wanted to bring the Moravian stage to the highest level of perfection. Every year, however, the orchestra and chorus were changed, rendering all my work from the previous year Futile; I wanted a bigger and more capable orchestra--all this was denied me.

However, in his conclusion Kozusnicek challenged the idea that Janacek would slander Hrazdira in any way. This was subsequently confirmed by Janacek himself: "With his temperament Hrazdira did justice to the work. Of course with the orchestra of the time!" It seems therefore to have been the opinion of Jan Kunc, who in the past had been very critical of Hrazdira's performance in his reviews. Moravske hudebni noviny also published the response of the director of the National Theatre, Frantisek Lacina, to Janacek's question of whether it was true that the singers were reluctant to sing Jenufa, as Professor Frantisek Zlabek, a member of the commission, had claimed at the general meeting:

My esteemed director.

With regard to your communication Imake so bold as to inform you that I did not say that the soloists did not want to sing in Jenufa. When it was spoken of. I stated in the commission that I did not have anyone for the character of Jenufa, as the conductor Mr Pavlata had said that Mrs Charvatova would never learn it, and Mr Krampera, when he gave notice in winter, also gave as one of his reasons the fact that he would not sing the parts in The Thunderstorm and Jenufa. That is all that I said. Prof. Zlabek must also recall that. I hope that this explanation will suffice for you.

With deep respect, Frant. Lacina.

Luhacovice, 5 July 1910.

The consequence of this scandal, so much talked about in the press, was that a new staging of Jenufa finally came about in the next season. The premiere, which was also a benefit for the construction of a monument dedicated to Pavel Krizkovsky, took place on 31 January 1911 under the baton of Rudolf Pavlata, once again in the production by Josef Maly, and was followed by four further performances. We have only cursory information about this staging, with the reviews singling out the performance of the singers:

The individual singers on stage acquitted themselves admirably, while throughout the orchestra carried out its conscientious work in such a way that the celebratory mood in the audience hardly abated For even an instant.

The second act made an especially good impression. The composer, who was present, was given noisy ovations by the audience and numerous floral tributes.

This staging was revived with one more performance on 25 March 1913, as part of a "Week of Czech Operas", this time with Josef Winkler as conductor. For this staging Janacek was apparently awarded the sum of 70 crowns (according to the same scale as in 19o4).

Another staging performed for the first time on 4 October 1916 was again undertaken by the conductor Josef Winkler and the director Karel Komarov. The opera was performed with Karel Kovarovic's revisions in the instrumentation and, primarily thanks to the "beautiful and atmospheric scenery and very good direction", but also in view of the political situation, was very well attended, as is illustrated by the high number of repeat performances. The last of these, the seventeenth, took place as late as 1 January 1919. This staging apparently earned the composer 226 crowns in royalties. We do not know much about the actual staging, perhaps only that the Prague Kostelnicka Gabriela Horvatova appeared twice as a guest performer. Even at this point, however, Jan Kunc draws attention to the disastrous state of the orchestra and to an embarrassing situation during the curtain call at the premiere: "The audience called out enthusiastically for the composer too, but he did not appear, since he was not in the theatre. The rumour goes that someone had omitted to send him a ticket. It seems scarcely believable that this could be possible in Brno."


It is surely no coincidence that Jenufa was the first opera premiere of the Czech National Theatre in the building of the originally German City Theatre. It took place on 23 August 1919 and was the first of the composer's operas to be staged by the new head Frantisek Neumann. The direction was undertaken by Rudolf Walter and the set by the new head of stage design Frantisek Snajberk. The director of the theatre, Vaclav Stech, recalled the preparations for this important premiere:

We prepared everything very lavishly--but it involved us in a lot of work and rushing around. The trouble is that Janacek's opera required so many things which were in extremely short supply after the war. In particular, there were no coloured ribbons. They weren't available anywhere--neither in Prague nor anywhere we wrote to or sent our agents to. Neither was there any lace, let alone the ribbons which were supposed to flutter from the garments of the sweet girls for whom we had gone to so much trouble just to obtain clothes. The painter Snajberk was a master of theatrical inventiveness--and he was able to conjure up everything using all kinds of illusions but he racked his brains in vain over the silk ribbons. Suddenly it dawned on mc that I had a large supply of ribbons with which kind and well-wishing people had decorated wreaths for me during my premieres and other splendid theatrical occasions. "Worldly glory is but transitory," I said, and for the greater glory of Janacek's Jenufa I gave my 96 triumphs to the painter Snajberk to cut up into strips, with the fine words removed from them in various ways. A thousand streamers then flew For Janacek on the costumes of Moravian beauties--bearing his work into jubilation. We made the preparations for this first performance in the City Theatre on a grand scale, and at my request Snajberk took a trip with experts in Moravian ethnography to villages which he could use as his model. Then so that our stage girls might be properly dressed--and that we couldn't be criticized for even the slightest thing--we hired Four vehicles to bring to Brno an enormous quantity of folk costumes and appropriate props that Snajberk had chosen. In this way everything would be perfect and the theatre director Cecil could not be reproached for having omitted or forgotten something. Four worthy women from the Moravian countryside were recruited to dress our ladies and dancers, and before the premiere they showed our seamstresses how everything should be put on correctly in the Folk style--how the scarves should be tied on their heads and bow to wear this or that accessory. Then they also remained in Brno for the first performances. Our expectations were therefore very high, and our conviction that everything would go well was unshakeable. In order to give every outward appearance of glamour to the performance, I arranged for the presence of all the available Moravian members of parliament who had been well-disposed towards us--and I took care of the seating or the city officials and journalists who would witness our efforts and our best will Janacek went on to enjoy enormous success--he was continually called for--and there was lots of cheering for him when he appeared.


The composer was happy with the performance, as is clear from Neumann's letter to his wife Milica: "The dress rehearsal for Jenufa turned out to my satisfaction and, with God's help, the performance tomorrow may go well too. Janacek was very happy with it!"

Neumann's wish was granted, and the premiere was a success. From six o'clock in the evening guests began to assemble, including representatives of the state, the country and the city. There were important cultural figures such as Alois Mrstik, Jaroslav Kvapil, V. V. Stech, Vladimir Helfert, Frantisek Sokol-Tuma, Karel Matej Capek-Chod and the painter Joza Uprka. The invitation was turned down by the "Moravian bard" Petr Bezruc with the excuse that he avoided such pomp.

At the opening of the evening Dvorak's overture Muj domov was performed with a quotation from the Czech anthem. After thunderous applause the director Vaclav Stech made a speech about the relationship between art and the nation, and after enthusiastic expressions of agreement the performance of Jenufa began. It was a huge success, primarily thanks to Neumann's outstanding musical staging, but also Snajberk's highly realistic and well researched stage design and Walter's direction, which struck a chord with post-war nationalist sentiments. The performances of the soloists were also excellent: Bozena Snopkova, Valentin Sindler and especially Marie Vesela. After 17 repeat performances, the last performance of this staging took place on 28 August 1923. However, it was revived for the theatre's tour to Prague's City Theatre in Kralovske Vinohrady, where it was apparently given twice. The composer was informed about its success by Neumann himself in a letter from 2 July 1924:

It is a pity that you were not here yesterday and did not hear the jubilation of a full house which was provoked by your work! It was tremendous and worthy of the celebration or your birthday. I can said say that our whole ensemble, stimulated by their love for you, outdid themselves and gave a quite exceptional performance. The president will visit us next Wednesday and wishes to hear your Jenufa. We are therefore repeating it as a penultimate guest performance."

That very same day Janacek wrote back to Neumann and the members of the orchestra in Prague: "Thank you sincerely for that message during this deuced 70th year of mine. It brought me pleasure. Have a happy sojourn in Prague, enjoy the holidays and then--back to work with gusto. Life is only bearable and pleasurable when it offers the possibility of work. Believe me, I feel it in my own case!" In the end Janacek went along to the second performance held on 9 July in Prague. The reason was the promised attendance of President T.G. Masaryk at the performance. However, Janacek did not get to meet him as Masaryk excused himself and sent the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edvard Bend in his place. Shortly afterwards there followed another production, once again under the baton of Janacek Neumann, but newly directed by the young Ota Zitek with stage design by Cenek Jandl. The premiere took place on 9 October 1924 and was very well received:


It was a truly festive performance, both in terms of its own merit and also its outward form. Several important roles have been re-cast, notably that of Laca by Mr Olsovsky, who gave his best performance to date on our stage, the mayor by Mr. Flogel, who created a robust and distinctive character whose singing provided a great degree of authenticity. Jano was performed by Mrs Hrdlickova-Zavrelova and themayor's wife by Miss Hlouskova. All these characters came together excellently to the magnificent standard which has characterized Janacek's marvellous work in our theatre since its first performance. And the leadership of Director Neumann, who was able in many respects to create a particular, distinctive style of production of Jenufa, inspired the whole ensemble with an enthusiasm that produced an exceptional performance. The composer, who was present in a tastefully decorated ground-level box, was greeted more and more thunderously after each act and had to offer his thanks from the stage many times for the enthusiastic ovations which seemed unending.

This staging was part of the repertoire until Neumann's death in 1929. During Janacek's lifetime until August 1928 it had 18 repeat performances. Jenufa was generally a well attended opera and in the period r919-r928 it earned the composer royalties from the Brno National Theatre amounting to almost 29,000 crowns. It is interesting to note that performances of Jenufa were also subscribed to by political parties--the Socialist Party of Czechoslovakia (1924) and Czechoslovak National Democracy (1925), but also by the bar association (1925) and the Music Union (1928). It is also worth pointing out that there were two performances of Jenufa at the 'Vereinigte Deutsche Theater in Brunn' in 1926.

Translation: Graeme and Suzanne Dibble
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Title Annotation:Brno Janacek
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Next Article:Antonin Dvorak String Quartets Op. 34 & Op. 106.

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