Charles Mackerras / Elisabeth Söderström

Janácek: Jenufa

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It's hard to think of a twentieth century Czech-language opera that has enjoyed more success than Leos Janácek's Jenufa, and there is certainly no shortage of good recordings of it. Among the most exceptional is this effort for Decca led by Charles Mackerras. Elisabeth Söderström is riveting in her portrayal of the small-town girl desperate that the empty-headed Steva, played by Petr Dvorský, will marry her and legitimize their child. Wieslav Ochman is alternatively menacing and touching as Steva's crazed, jealousy-confused rival and Lucia Popp makes a memorable turn in the relatively minor role of Karolka; Mackerras keeps things moving at a breathless pace. Perhaps one might concede that a 130-minute opera doesn't need "extras," but this set has a couple of useful ones. It includes the last scene as revised, rather aggressively, by orchestrator Karel Kovarovic, and "Jealousy," the original overture of Jenufa that Janácek had cast aside in favor of another, but that later became a popular concert work in its own right. Mackerras' Jenufa is an excellent choice for anyone interested in Leos Janácek's greatest operatic masterwork.

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