Generously supported by Simon & Meg Freakley
In a small village in Moravia, the hapless Jenufa nurses her passion for her cousin, Steva, by whom she is pregnant. Alas, this is the tale of a tangled web of relationships in which a jealous half-brother, and a conflicted stepmother intervene in a dramatic and ultimately tragic fashion. Regarded as one of Janácek's masterpieces, Jenufa is music drama at its most intense and devastating.
The Buryja family is in distress. Grandmother Buryja has had two sons both of which have died before the opera starts leaving two half-brothers, Števa and Laca, who are at odds. Jenufa is expecting a child by her cousin Števa, the elder of the two and owner of the mill. Jenufa desperately hopes that Števa will avoid conscription so that they can marry at once and she can avoid having a child out of wedlock. However it is Laca, the younger of the two brothers, who is in love with Jenufa.
Jenufa waits anxiously to hear about Števa’s fate. Laca, bitter with jealously and unrequited love, treats Jenufa heartlessly. The foreman announces Števa has not been drafted. Jenufa and Grandmother Buryja are delighted but Luca can’t hide his disappointment. Števa arrives drunk and forces Jenufa to dance with him. An imperious Kostelnicka interrupts and chastises Števa. Remembering her own drunken husband, she tells Števa he can marry Jenufa only after a year of teetotalling. Grandmother Buryja sends the musicians packing. Števa leaves to sleep off his drunkenness but as he goes he promises he will not abandon Jenufa. Laca and Jenufa are left alone and an argument brews. In the heat of the moment Laca slashes Jenufa’s cheek.
Five months later and Jenufa has had her baby in secret. Števa arrives and Kostelnicka begs him to marry Jenufa, the mother of his child. He says he cannot marry Jenufa now she is disfigured but will pay for the upkeep of his child. He is now engaged to the Mayor’s daughter, Karolka. Laca arrives, still in love with Jenufa and wanting to marry her. Kostelnicka breaks down and tells him that Jenufa has given birth to Števa’s child. He is horrified and in desperation Kostelnicka says the child is dead. Left alone, she decides she has no choice but to kill the baby and drowns him in the mill-stream. When Jenufa wakes, Kostelnicka pretends Jenufa has had a fever for two days during which time her baby has died. Kostelnicka explains that Števa has rejected her but Laca still wants to marry her. Jenufa reluctantly agrees.
Two months later, preparations are underway for Jenufa’s marriage to Laca. The Mayor and his wife come to pay their respects but Jenufa is sad and Kostelnicka uneasy. Laca tells Jenufa that he has forgiven Števa and that he has invited him and his fiancée, Karolka, to the wedding. The village girls sing a wedding song to Jenufa and she receives Grandmother Buryja’s blessing. Suddenly there is a commotion. The body of a baby has been found in the frozen mill-stream. Jenufa identifies the baby as her own. The villagers assume Jenufa killed her own baby so in defence of her step-daughter Kostelnicka admits her crime. Jenufa shows her step-mother mercy as she is lead away to face her punishment. Left alone Jenufa tells Laca that he is free to go but he pleads to remain by her side. Jenufa realises that their suffering has brought them a greater love than she has ever known.