Went to the dress rehearsal of Jenufa at Glyndebourne yesterday. Dress rehearsals are for invited audiences of company family & friends and orchestra family is often seated in the front row of the stalls. Therefore I got the full knockout impact of what must be one of the most powerful, horrifying and inspiring operas in the whole repertoire. It is an emotional roller-coaster second to none, with a libretto so fine that, enhanced by this marvellous Lehnhoff production, all the violence and misery is entirely believable. By the end I felt as if I'd been hit by a truck. I can think of few other works quite as upsetting as Jenufa, other than the Mahler Kindertotenlieder, which I now refuse ever to attend because I am so gutted by it.
Nor was there a single weak link in the performance - and this was just the dress rehearsal. Marcus Stenz makes his Glyndebourne debut in the pit - he told me it's not only his first Glyndebourne but his first Jenufa too. It's a huge achievement and I'm sure he'll be back for more. Orla Boylan is enchanting and convincing as Jenufa, a bright girl horribly betrayed by those closest to her; Kathryn Harries as Kostelnicka managed to make this monstrous woman completely human, showing that she acts out of love for her step-daughter and genuinely believes she is doing the right thing until the guilt drives her mad. The men are excellent, the mayor looks like Alf Garnett and the leader of the orchestra, Pieter Schoeman, plays his big Act 2 solo with a beauty and intensity that wouldn't disgrace Pinchas Zukerman.
I adore Janacek but don't know nearly enough about him. That has to change, because this evening begged one question: what on earth drives someone to create an opera like this? Time for a trip to the library.
Unconnected note for UK readers: get The Independent tomorrow... and if you're overseas, have a look on-line after lunch UK time.