Scoop Review: Jenufa Gives Good Name To Melodrama

Published: Thu 16 Oct 2008 01:50 PM
Scoop Review: Jenufa Gives Good Name To Melodrama
Images Adrian Malloch

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Anne Sophie Duprels-Jenufa, Margaret Medlyn-Kostelnicka,
The town where the unfortunate heroine of Jenufa lives is certainly suffering from a man drought. When the play begins the ruddy cheeked beauty of the village Jenufa is betrothed to the town drunkard and playboy Steva. Watching from the wings is Steva's moody and potentially unstable brother Laca who nesr the end of the of the first act manages to whick his whittling knife down Jenufa's right cheek – cue 'Bob's disposable scars' for rest of show.
For the rest of the Opera Jenufa swings between pining for the Steva - who isn't so keen now the ruddy cheeked heroine isn't quite so ruddy cheeked and now also a solo mother (with his baby) and making do with the regretful and devoted but still moody and dour Laca.
Oh and let's not forget the Mum from hell – a gloomy lady called Kostelnicka very well played by Margaret Medlyn. Worrying that Jenufa may not be able to attract a decent husband now burdened with both a livid scar and a newborn baby Kostelnicka does what every early 20th century East European mum would do – takes infant off to the woods for a spot of infanticide.
Perhaps due to the source material some of Jenufa is unintentionally funny. I found myself reading all the dialogue avidly looking for more super melodramatic lines.
Indeed the one problem with Jenufa may be that if one concentrates on the melodramatic storyline then it is possible to miss the quality of some of the performances. In many ways the music and singing is superseded by the storyline - there is no time for flashy show off Arias – instead jenufa works as a great ensemble effort.
For me the standouts were the mean and moody portrayal of Laca by Tom Randle and the over the top witch like performance of Margaret Medlyn who no doubt got a few pointers on how to be creepy and witch-like from her sister Helen Medlyn who was recently seen as the witch in Hansel And Gretel.

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Visually the scenes set in Jenufa's place of residence worked better than the east-european village set of ACt One which seemed to remind one a little too much of the 'Smallville' TV set especially with with the big red barn.
If one happens to be thinking golly I'd like to see an opera containing a spot of infanticide sung in Czech then it's certainly your lucky Month as the very professional and melodramatic Jenufa is on for a bit longer yet.
Still time to catch a spot of melodramatic opera - NBR NZ Opera Genesis Energy season of Jenufa 2008
WELLINGTON – St James Theatre
Sat 18 October (7:30pm),

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