Every family has its secrets
Jenůfa has a secret. In a small community where everyone knows your business, she is about to bring shame on herself and her family by having a child out of wedlock. She hopes to marry the father, the drunken and womanising Števa before the secret is revealed but her interfering stepmother, Kostelnička, has other plans. Thinking she is protecting Jenůfa from shame she gives her a sleeping draft, and takes the baby. Believing the baby has died, Laca offers to save Jenůfa’s reputation by marrying her but on their wedding day the dark truth of what really happened is revealed.
A heart-wrenching tale of hope, love and despair, Jenůfa has captivated audiences for a century. WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus conducts Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed production that was described as ‘the most powerful yet’ last time it toured.
Supported by WNO Janáček Circle and WNO Partners. The role of WNO Music Director is supported by Marian and Gordon Pell
Cast & Creative
The village Sacristan (Kostelnička) has a step-daughter Jenůfa. Although Kostelnička knows that Jenůfa is in love with Števa from the mill, she is unaware that Jenůfa is pregnant with his child. Jenůfa prays that Števa will not be drafted to the army so that they will be married. She fears damnation of her soul and being shamed and punished by the villagers.
Števa’s less-favoured half-brother Laca has always loved Jenůfa and resents Števa’s hold on her. When Števa returns drunk having been let off conscription, Kostelnička denounces him and refuses to allow him to marry her step-daughter. Jenůfa is distraught. Laca taunts her and in anger, slashes her cheek.
Kostelnička is determined to hide the shame of Jenůfa’s pregnancy and hides her away. Once the baby boy is born, Kostelnička summons Števa. She has drugged Jenůfa so that she is unaware. Števa agrees to support the child but wants his fatherhood kept secret because he is engaged to the Mayor‘s daughter Karolka. Laca arrives later and Kostelnička tells him that Jenůfa has had Števa’s baby, but that it died. She then kills Jenůfa’s baby. When Jenůfa awakens Kostelnička explains to her that her baby had died while she had been in a fever. Laca returns and asks to marry Jenůfa, and Kostelnička gives her blessing and curses Števa, the cause of their misfortune.
Two months later, the villagers meet for Jenůfa and Laca’s wedding. Kostelnička is about to bless the couple when shouts are heard. Jenůfa’s dead baby has been found in the frozen river. The villagers threaten to stone Jenůfa for infanticide. Laca tries to restrain them until her step-mother Kostelnička confesses. As Kostelnička is led away, Jenůfa tells her that she understands why she killed the baby and forgives her step-mother. Jenůfa tells Laca that he may leave too but he stays with her, as he still loves her.