Concluding from here: From the mastermind directing and staging of Stéphane Braunschweig comes a chilling, minimal wash of the Czech opera Jenůfa at Teatro alla Scala, trapping the performers in a world as stripped-down and bare-bone as the raw emotions and oppressive tragedy found in the libretto. Opera Chic had heard the buzz prior to the performance, and knew that the design team channeled the genius of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Mark Rothko, (in co-production with Teatro Real Madrid, and created at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet in 1996) and there was no way she would miss it. Another draw was to satiate her flaming crush on Anja Silja, which intensified after attending a NYC Jenůfa-centric lecture between Silja and Karita Mattila at the MET Opera.
Act I opens with dark-brown paneled walls, stacked and rising to the ceiling, set as a framing element for the entire stage. The floor is painted stark white. Jenůfa sits tending to her plant, while a narrow slit opens in the floor behind her, from which the giant red turbines from the mill circulate behind her, perpendicular to the floor. It’s stunning, and provides a very cutting image, and greatly foreshadowing the morbid presence of the mill and what tragedy is to come. Costumes are either swaths of bright red cloth, creamy whites, or blacks, and pop from the dark brown wood panels of the staging (in the article below, you can see Števa returning with the other musicians and conscripts).
Throughout the opera, the shadows cast from the superb lighting create their own independent show, deepening the pathos and visceral impetus that breaks-down between the characters. Long mellow shadows mix with harsh, bright, cutting plays of light…thanks to the genius behind lumière Marion Hewlett's clever technique. The theme of cutting, sharpness, and jagged ripping was transformed into the lighting, creating visual elements of the same nature.
Act II, the room in the house of Kostelnička, has been shown as two simple walls pushed together to form a deep triangle. At the point of the triangle, furthest away from the stage, is the cradle of the baby. When Kostelnička decides to kill the child and snatches the baby from the cradle (no not teh babee!), the room spits open, shattered, splintered, with sharp, white lights creating physical seams and stratifications on the stage floor. It’s very effective and powerful. At the point where Laca enters the room and reaffirms his love to Jenůfa, that huge motherfather fan comes up from the stage and divides Kostelnička from the couple, the shows splicing and cutting the forms. Throughout it all, Anja Silja sang her freaking head off. She made Emily Magee’s Jenůfa appear impotent and plastic.
Act III was the same basic staging as Act I, but included stark yellow/green lighting, and pews evocative of the church. Maestro Lothar Koenigs conducted blithely, pulling staccato and coldness from the orchestra when needed, and then morphing into a sweet legato. It was perfect.
(pretty bad photo of curtain call with Jenůfa front and center)
At the curtain call, Jenůfa was more or less snubbed, given a polite applause for her capable performance. But the real applause went for the creative team (Braunschweig, Hewlett, and Thibault Vancraenenbroeck for costumes), Lothar Koenigs’ conducting, Miro Dvorsky’s Laca, and certainly for the most bada$$ lady singing on stage today: Anja Silja.
~~Here's a bonus that was spotted during la pausa:
If ur invited as someone's "escort" to la prima, don't dress like ur @ the Kentucky Derby. yeee-haw! Dress + hat does not automatically = class tia tia. ladies, your fashion crimes are hijacking my will to live. (btw, no one has worn a hat at la scala since like Verdi).