Friday, September 28, 2007

Baby killers and really big rocks: Jenufa at LA Opera

Last night, my roomies and I made our way downtown to the LA Opera to see a pretty wonderful production of "Jenufa" by Leos Janacek. The plot, for those of you who aren't opera queens, concerns a young woman's hidden pregnancy, unrequited love, baby killing mother, and public shaming all in a small Czech village in the early 1900's. Karita Mattila as Jenufa, and Eva Urbanova as Kostelnicka (her mother) were absolutely amazing. These two sopranos seemed almost made for their roles. The same accolades could not be said for Jorma Silvasti as Steva (The unrequited love) who's flat performance and sad miscasting bordered on distracting. The direction was strong, the orchestra rocked my world as they always do, but for once I actually found the set design to be a bit trite and distracting... Normally, the strong choices and broad strokes you see on that stage take your breath away so this was a surprise. The designer Frank Philipp Schlossmann created essentially two designs that seemed to fight for attention: the real world of the town and a story about rocks as a symbol for burden, fear, and lies. My feeling was, since he couldn't ride that fine line of abstracted realism why didn't he just pick one idea and run with it? The rock was buried, then the big rock in the middle of the room, then blown apart.... beautiful idea, but was there perhaps a better and maybe even more clever way to tell that story or progression? It just all seemed a little hokey. The one thing that brought the world to life beyond the incredible performances by the two leads, was the gorgeous lighting by Max Keller and Brian Gale. Their work was just magical and I can't wait to see their work on Don Giovanni in a few months. If you live in LA and are looking for a good show, run to see this show. It is some of the best singing you will ever hear!

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