[Met Performance] CID:88570
Jenufa {2} Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 12/16/1924.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 16, 1924
In German


JENUFA {2}

Jenufa..................Maria Jeritza
Laca....................Martin Öhman
Kostelnicka.............Margarete Matzenauer
Steva...................Rudolf Laubenthal
Grandmother.............Kathleen Howard
Foreman.................Arnold Gabor
Barena..................Charlotte Ryan
Maid....................Grace Anthony
Mayor...................James Wolfe
Mayor's Wife............Laura Robertson
Karolka.................Ellen Dalossy
Aunt....................Marie Mattfeld
Incidental Dance........Corps de Ballet

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Wilhelm Von Wymetal
Set designer............Hans Pühringer
Set designer............Joseph Novak
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Ottokar Bartik

Review signed S. L. L. in the Philadelphia Public Ledger

JERITZA DOES GREAT ACTING IN CURIOUS JANACEK OPERA

Famous Diva and Mme. Matzenauer Magnificent in Exceedingly Intense Drama Given by Metropolitan Company

One of the most curious "operas" ever given in Philadelphia was presented by the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York at the Academy of Music last evening when Janacek's "Jenufa" was sung by a group of stars to a stupendously powerful orchestra accompaniment led by Artur Bodanzky. The story of the opera is a singularly disagreeable one, but it gives full scope to the extraordinarily dramatic powers of Maria Jeritza and Margaret Matzenauer, both of whom improved their opportunities in this line to the utmost.

Musically the opera is in a class by itself, for nothing like it in musical content has ever been heard here. It is really not opera at all, but incidental music accompanying an exceedingly intense drama. The work follows no precedent. There are many themes which recur throughout the opera, but this recurrence has nothing in common with the Wagnerian "leit- motif," because they are repeated virtually in toto and without development of that reference to previous characters or scenes which is carried out to so high a degree by the master of Bayreuth.

At the same time, it must be admitted that the music never intrudes upon the dramatic action. In the intensity of some of the scenes the hearer is entirely unconscious of any music at all, which shows in itself that it fits the dramatic situation. Did it intrude, it would be incongruous and therefore unfitting. Nevertheless, it is by no means great music, for the thrills which the work contains (and there are many) are entirely dramatic and not musical ones. The best that one can say for the music is that it does not ruin the histrionic effects.

But there are unquestionably points in the opera where the music rises to considerable heights. The greatest of these is the monologue of the Sexton's Widow (Mme. Matzenauer) where she decides on the death of the baby as the best way out of a most undesirable situation. Also the ensuing scene, where Jenufa (Mme. Jeritza) discovers the absence of the child, and again in the same act where the explanation is made.

The opera was superbly staged and magnificently acted by Mesdames Jeritza and Matzenauer. There are defects of operatic and libretto techniques throughout, as both the second and third acts end in anti-climaxes and the emotional tension in both these acts is too long sustained for the hearer. Had the curtain been rung down when Jenufa discovers the loss of the child and sinks faintingly against the locked door, the audience, wrought to the highest emotional pitch of the evening, would have "gone crazy" to use a stage term. Instead, the explanation and the first love scene follow. There is a limit of emotional endurance to the audience as well as to the performers and Mesdames Jeritza and Matzenauer were manifestly "all in" when they responded to the curtain calls at the close of the act.

Columns more might be written of this unique opera. The tenors (it calls for two of these) were moderately good in the persons of Messers Laubenthal and Ohman and Kathleen Howard was very fine, vocally and dramatically, as Grandmother Buryja. The numerous lesser roles were well taken by Arnold Gabor, Ellen Dalossy, Grace Anthony, Charlotte Ryan and Marie Mattfeld. Mr. Bodanzky, with his usual lack of appreciation of the wonderful acoustics of the Philadelphia Academy of Music, allowed the orchestra to overpower the singers most of the time, even admitting that the orchestral parts are more important than the vocal ones.



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