Cher Public

An old-fashioned wedding

Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin notes: while this performance of Janácek’s Jenufa features the same three principal singers from the legendary Carnegie Hall concert of 1988, the fact that it is a staged performance raises the temperature even higher.

Plus Janácek specialist Charles Mackerras on the podium is a huge improvement over Eve Queler. Note the singer in the role of the Old Shepherdess!

Leos Janácek: Jenufa

San Francisco Opera
Charles Mackerras, conductor
19 September 1986

Jenufa – Gabriela Benacková
Kostelnicka Buryjovka – Leonie Rysanek
Laca Klemen – Wieslaw Ochman
Steva Buryja – Neil Rosenshein
Grandmother Buryjovka – Cristiane Young
Stárek – Mark Coles
Jano – Li-Cham Chen
The mayor – Monte Pederson
The mayor’s wife – Nikki Li Hartlep
Karolka – Kathryn Cowdrick
Barena – Vicki Shaghoian
An old shepherdess – Deborah Voigt
Kostelnicka’s aunt – Delia Voitoff

  • quoth the maven

    I can’t wait to hear this. But I want to note that part of the thrill of the Carnegie Hall performance came from its concert setting. In Act II, when Kostelnicka is murdering the baby, Rysanek stood, statue-still, her arms crossed in front of her and her eyes burning. You felt the horror of the off-stage events coloring Jenufa’s prayer, which made Kostelnicka’s hysterical “reappearance” that much more powerful. When Rysanek and Benacková did it a couple of years later at the Met, under Conlon, it was musically sharper (natch), but as fabulous as it was, it didn’t have quite the intensity of the Queler night.

    Rysanek that night gave the single greatest operatic performance I have ever seen, or can ever hope to see.

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      As great as the Carnegie performance was (of course I was there!), I still have to give a slight edge to the San Francisco performance I attended in 1986. Leonie was in full “possessed” mode and I think having the scenery and costumes helped her loose herself. She was, as often stated, not fond of concerts and never gave recitals (perhaps very early in her career) as she had no mask behind which to hide. I once had the privilege of standing in the hollow of a proscenium arch during one of her “Toscas” and in Act II when she wasn’t singing she was wandering around the stage talking to herself in Italian. Anyway, the end of Act II of the San Francisco performance was one of the most demented Leonie moments I ever witnessed (and I witnessed a lot of them!). When the wind blew the windows open, she started moving toward them, but with resistance, as if being pulled from her solar plexus by some invisible force, with her body arched away. She let out a ghostly gasp/shriek at the very end of the act (you can hear it on the Mixcloud upload) and then at the last chord collapsed backwards. Blackout. Utter hysteria. Applause continued well into the intermission even after it was clear that no one was coming onstage to take a bow. I literally couldn’t speak.

      • quoth the maven

        Wow. Goddam Leonie--she was really sumtin’!

        If memory serves, something similar happened after Act II at Carnegie: the audience refused to stop clapping, essentially keeping the applause going all through intermission.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          I love that the commercial CD release of the Carnegie performance (on the BIS label) contains more than 20 minutes of applause! About two minutes after Act I, sic after Act II, and more than 12 at the end. Unfortunately, the applause is cut off from the San Francisco performance I uploaded (I didn’t tape it myself -- it came to me that way).

  • La Valkyrietta

    Oh thank you, I will listen to this later, which I never have, I am sure it is wonderful as the other times I have seen this opera. Leonie as Kostelnicka is one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had, in or out of opera. She out Leos Leos.

    • Quite right to give credit to the work itself, too. Janacek has supplied some of my best ever experiences at the opera, and twice that meant Jenufa.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Janácek is one of my favorite composers and I’ve managed to see multiple productions of all seven of his mature works (living near Brno and Prague helps, plus Wiener Staatsoper is the midst of a full Janácek Cycle; we’ve even had “Osud” with Anja Silja). Before I had the generous support of La Cieca and Parterre Box in promoting my Mixcloud uploads, I posted a magnificent 1991 “Kát’a Kabanová” with Benacková and Rysanek more than a year ago. You have to dig a bit on my homepage to find it, but it’s well worth the listen (it, too, is led by Mackerras, and the audio quality is superb).

  • rysanekfreak

    Thank you for the memories.

    I saw one of these San Francisco performances, but it was the Carnegie Hall performance that I will always remember as the greatest Rysanek performance I ever saw.

    The audience hysteria after Act II was amazing.

    • Belfagor

      As far as I can recall the applause after Act 2 was way more than 2 minutes -- I remember the orchestra filing off the stage while Benackova and Rysanek were still acknowledging the hysteria…….quite an incredible night. I actually had a free night in New York I remember, and wandered into Carnegie Hall to see if there might be anything interesting on, boy, was I surprised, and even more incredible getting a single return just by chance!

      But for me Janacek is quite simply the greatest 20th century opera composer -- I’ve had countless fabulous experiences, seeing Soderstrom as Kata and Emilia Marty, Evelyn Lear, and lately Mattila in Makropulos too, an extraordinary Jenufa production by Yuri Lyubimov with Eva Randova chilling the blood -- a riveting Pountney production of ‘Osud’ at ENO…..

      • Check out Robert Carsen’s Katja Kabanova starring Matilla — beautiful!

      • MontyNostry

        Gosh, I’d forgotten about that Osud -- with Philip Langridge and the late Eileen Hannan. Was it Felicity Palmer as Mama?

        • MontyNostry

          Ludmilla Andrew, in fact.

          • Belfagor

            That’s right -- Ludmilla Andrew is the only one still with us -- and any soprano who can encompass that, the songs of Medtner and Massenet’s ‘Sapho’ deserves much admiration…….

            As for Osud, I love that piece, it’s so bizarre. And that opening kinetic dance scene is such an earwig!

            • PushedUpMezzo

              Yes -- Ludmilla (or Milla) Andrew was a very versatile singer. I think I remember her Donna Anna, but definitely remember my first live Forza del Destino where she stepped in at short notice to sing from the score. Not a lot of acting went on, especially since she was up against the dramatically challenged, but very Italianate Alvaro of Charles Craig. But it was a very exciting sound, maybe a little like early Gorchakova.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        I mean to write SIX minutes of after Act II, not “sic!” The applause on the CD after Act II is close to seven minutes and may not be complete. There is a further 12-13 minutes at the end of the opera.

        And you were indeed damned lucky to get a ticket at the last minute!

  • Belfagor

    Thank you, I will. I think I saw her at ROH in a Kata 10 or so years back, but I’m a little hazy -- and I don’t recall who was the director……..She did do a great Jenufa with Silja as the Kostelnicka, which was another great night.

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

    I have two other great Janácek performances at my Mixcloud site which were posted before La Cieca invited me to collaborate on “Montag mit Marianne:”

    “Kát’a Kabanová” with Benacková and Rysanek, Mackerras conducting (Met 1991):

    http://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/jan%C3%A1%C4%8Dek-k%C3%A1%C5%A5a-kabanov%C3%A1-bena%C4%8Dkov%C3%A1-rysanek-quittmeyer-ochman-straka-mackerras-met-1991/

    “Jenufa” with Mattila and Polaski, Rattle conducting the Berliner Philharmonniker (Berlin concert 2005):

    Act I:

    http://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/jan%C3%A1%C4%8Dek-jen%C5%AFfa-act-i-mattila-polaski-margita-streit-rattle-berlin-2005-live/

    Act II:

    http://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/jan%C3%A1%C4%8Dek-jen%C5%AFfa-act-ii-mattila-polaski-margita-streit-rattle-berlin-2005-live/

    Act III:

    http://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/jan%C3%A1%C4%8Dek-jen%C5%AFfa-act-iii-mattila-polaski-margita-streit-rattle-berlin-2005-live/

    I think these links will work, even with the Czech diacriticals transformed into code.

    • Belfagor

      This will be my Christmas. I can escape from endless conviviality and be wrung inside out with Leos…….!

  • Henry Holland

    One of the very first operas I went to was a production by Los Angeles Opera of Kat’a Kabanova with Rysanek as the awful Kabanicha. She got good-natured boos at her curtain call for playing such an awful person so well, it was wonderful.

  • Krunoslav

    The other things that made the SFO performances better were the edition that Mackerras used, and the better Steva. I saw three of them!

    But my fellow New Yorkers insist that everything is best here, so…

    • Bill

      Among the absolutely finest Benackova/Rysanek
      Jenufas were the many I heard in Vienna with Vaclav
      Neumann conducting. As far as I know Benackova and
      Rysanek sang Jenufa together for some performances
      at San Francisco, some at the Met, the Carnegie
      Hall performance, a number of times in Vienna and
      once in Brno. Benackova’s first Vienna Jenufas
      were with Sena Jurinac (a former fantastic Jenufa)
      as Kuesterin. Believe Rysanek sang the Kuesterin
      in 3 languages, German in Vienna, Czech in New York,
      San Francisco in Brno and elsewhere and in English in Australia. No matter what the language, it was
      one of her greatest assumptions of a role (and there
      were many -- I even enjoyed her Medea tremendously).

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        At Wiener Staatsoper, Benacková and Rysanek sang a total of four performances of “Jenufa” with Neumann conducting in 1990/1991. There were also two more with Mackerras conducting. Rysanek sang Kostelnicka (Die Küsterin) a total of 11 times in Wien. Her other Jenufas were Mechthild Gessendorf and Roberta Alexander. All performances were sung in German.

        Benacková and Rysanek did six performances in 1985 in San Francisco (Mackerras) and only four performances at the Met in 1992/1993 (Conlon), all sung in Czech.

        And, of course, there was the Carnegie hall concert of 1988.

  • senafan

    I was in the chorus for the Carnegie performance. It was quite an evening, though we only got to see (and hear) everything from behind. Rysanek really was amazing, and I think this was just after it had been announced that she had cancer.

    I heard Jurinac as Kostelnicka in SF in 1980, and that was an indescribable experience.

    • Krunoslav

      Senafan, Rysanek’s cancer was not announced even by the time of her farewell QUEEN OF SPADES at the Met in 1996.

      I thought we only learned about it at he time of her death.

  • senafan

    Hm, could I be that far off? My recollection is of being struck by how you could not tell that she was ill. I swear that’s what I think I remember… but I am old enough now that whenever I think something happened 5 years ago, I find out it was 10. My feeble brain could be mixing things up…