This beautiful story of honor and dishonor, of love, crime, and forgiveness, reveals the terrible events in a Moravian village. Jenůfa is expecting a child from the irresponsible and drink-loving Števa. Števa's brother Laca also loves Jenůfa, but, in a fit of jealousy, with his affections not reciprocated, he mutilates Jenůfa's face with a knife so that his brother would never look at it again. When Jenůfa confesses to the Kostelnička the relationship she has had with Števa, the stepmother does everything to hide the disgrace from the neighbors. In an effort to encourage Laca to marry Jenůfa, the Kostelnička secretly drowns Jenůfa 's newborn baby. Is it possible to forgive the unforgivable?
Directed by Alvis Hermanis, the production premiered in 2014 at the Opéra La Monnaie in Brussels. The production was made in collaboration with Teatro Communale di Bologna. Alvis Hermanis's masterpiece by Leoš Janáček highlights the ethnographic splendor of the culture of the Central European region without losing the dramatic tension so characteristic of the drama of Jenůfa 's life in the play imbued with Moravian colour.
Jenůfa, based on Gabriela Preisova's drama Her Stepdaughter, is Czech composer Leoš Janáček's most famous opera. First performed in Brno in 1904, this is the third production of Jenůfa at the Latvian National Opera.
Music: Leo Janacek, adapted by Charles Mackerras
Lyrics: Gabriela Preissova, libretto by Leo Janacek
Copyright © Universal Edition AG, Wien , Austria.
A Moravian mountain village during the second half of the 1800s.
Mrs Buryja, an elderly lady, lives near a mill with her two grandsons. Števa, who became the mill owner upon his father's death, is rich, and Laca, his older half-brother, is poor. Both are in love with their beautiful and educated cousin Jenůfa, who has taught the herd-boy Jano to write. She is the stepdaughter of Kostelnička – the austere sacristan at the village church.
Jenůfa, unbeknownst to everyone, is expecting Števa's child and impatiently waits at the mill for his return from the annual draft board commission. If he has to go to the military and they can’t have the marriage ceremony right away, her pregnancy will be discovered, and she will be dishonoured.
When the miller announces that Števa is exonerated from military service, Jenůfa is ecstatic. Laca, however, is angry – he hoped to be rid of the rivalry once Števa became a soldier.
Overjoyed and drunk, Števa arrives at the mill with a group of musicians. Everyone is dancing, but after seeing Števa so drunk, Kostelnička interrupts the festivities and declares that his marriage with Jenůfa is off. Števa is given a year to improve his behaviour.
At this point, Laca expresses his repressed jealousy and returns to torment Jenůfa. He says that Števa only loves her beautiful face, not her heart. He is so jealous over the poor girl that he slashes her across the cheek with a knife, though he immediately repents.
Five months later.
Jenůfa has given birth to her baby. The whole village thinks she is in Vienna, but she is secretly living in Kostelnička's house, who is trying to find a way to help her evade the shame of an illegitimate pregnancy. The matron decides to give a sleeping potion to Jenůfa and convince Števa to marry the young girl. However, Števa refuses – he no longer fancies Jenůfa with her slashed face. He is willing to pay a maintenance for the child, but wishes to keep the paternity a secret, especially while he is engaged to Karolka, the mayor's daughter.
Kostelnička calls on Laca, who expresses how profoundly sorry he is for his actions and declares his readiness to marry Jenůfa, as he is still deeply in love with her. But when Kostelnička tells him about the child, Laca is reluctant to accept Števa's son.
The woman tries to recover by saying that the infant is dead and makes her excuses to leave. Meanwhile, she decides to get rid of the baby. She covers him up and takes him out into the raging snowstorm. Jenůfa wakes up, desperately looking for the child who is no longer there. She starts praying to the Holy Mother.
Upon her return, Kostelnička lies again; she tells Jenůfa that during the two days she was asleep, the child became sick and died. She then convinces Jenůfa to accept the marriage with Laca who arrives to declare his love for her. While the two are talking, Kostelnička appears shaken as she realises the weight of her actions.
Two months later.
Everyone is excited for Jenůfa and Laca’s wedding. Števa arrives with his new fiancée, followed by the mayor's family and other villagers.
The bride and groom kneel to receive a blessing from their grandmother and then from Kostelnička, who has been suffering a nervous breakdown from the remorse over the murder. As she prepares to bless them, they hear an uproar of yelling and noise from the outside, causing Jenůfa's stepmother to fall back in terror. The icy creek has returned the body of a child, abandoned in its waters. Jenůfa immediately recognises the garments of her baby.
The crowd is ready to attack Jenůfa while Laca defends her. To everyone’s astonishment, Kostelnička confesses her heinous crime, clearing Jenůfa of all blame.
Karolka recognises that Števa bears moral responsibility for the tragedy and breaks off their engagement. Meanwhile, Jenůfa understands that her stepmother committed the infanticide out of love for her and pardons her before Kostelnička gives herself up to the law.
When everyone leaves, Jenůfa urges Laca to leave with them, but he remains by her side, thus declaring his undying love for her once more. Having gained proof of his feelings for her, the girl finally realises that Laca is her one true love.