September 25, 2023
Get to know the cast and characters of Jenůfa
For Janáček's haunting and emotionally charged opera Jenůfa, four exceptional artists will take center stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago, breathing life into the complex and gripping characters. Lise Davidsen (Jenůfa), Nina Stemme (Kostelnička), Pavel Černoch (Laca), and Richard Smagur (Števa) will transport audiences to a close-knit Moravian village in Lyric's gripping production directed by Claus Guth. Familiarize yourself with these mesmerizing voices and the complex characters of Jenůfa, onstage November 12-26.
Making her Lyric Opera debut, Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen is poised to captivate audiences with her powerful voice and impeccable artistry. As Jenůfa, the opera's titular character, Davidsen navigates a journey of love, humiliation, and hope. Jenůfa harbors a closely guarded secret — she is pregnant by Števa, and in her small, close-knit community, the weight of high moral expectations and societal norms amplifies the burden she carries, grappling with both shame and the overwhelming responsibilities imposed upon her. With Davidsen’s radiant presence on stage and a voice that has been hailed as one of the most thrilling in opera today, she promises to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of all who witness her performance.
Returning to Lyric Opera after her unforgettable portrayal of Elektra in the 2018/19 Season, Nina Stemme takes on the role of Kostelnička, Jenůfa's stepmother. Stemme's portrayal of this complex character — torn between familial love and desperation — will surely be a tour de force. With deep concern for her step-daughter’s well-being and their reputations, Kostelnička makes a tragic decision in the hope of protecting Jenůfa and shielding them both from shame and humiliation. Renowned for her exceptional artistry, the Swedish dramatic soprano has portrayed some of opera's most challenging and emotionally rich roles, from the iconic Isolde, Brünnhilde, and Kundry, to the mighty Salome and Elektra, as well as Fanciulla and Turandot. Now, as she takes on the role of Kostelnička, we are utterly confident that Stemme will once again captivate audiences with her unmatched talent and bring extraordinary depth to this complex character.
Hailing from Brno, Czech Republic, Pavel Černoch makes his Lyric debut in the role of Laca. Laca's deeply obsessive desire for Jenůfa leads him to act impulsively and even violently as he discovers the secrets she bears. However, as the story unfolds, Laca and Jenůfa find a turning point, a moment of forgiveness and understanding that could change their lives forever. With his expressive tenor and heartfelt delivery, Černoch is no stranger to Leoš Janáček’s work, having appeared in a number of operas by his compatriot. Moreover, Černoch studied at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in his hometown and made his operatic debut at the Janáček Theatre in Brno, adding a personal connection to this masterful performance.
In his Lyric debut, American tenor Richard Smagur returns to the role of the handsome but irresponsible Števa, which he performed to great acclaim at Santa Fe Opera in 2019. Grappling with a secret pregnancy and the possibility of being drafted into war, this vexing character demands a deft singing actor. Notable for his riveting stage presence, Smagur’s rise to fame began by winning the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. A former fellow at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, the Houston Grand Opera studio, and Santa Fe Opera, he has already performed on some of the nation’s biggest stages and is sure to thrill Lyric audiences.
Jenůfa’s intricate family tree reveals a tapestry of fascinating and strange connections. With Števa, the actual grandson of our esteemed grandmother, and Laca, the step-grandson, we witness the convergence of blood and bond. Kostelnička, the daughter-in-law of the beloved matriarch, assumes a pivotal role in this gripping drama, navigating the complexities of love and sacrifice. Meanwhile, Jenůfa — Kostelnička’s stepdaughter — stands at the heart of this operatic masterpiece, her journey a testament to the power of redemption. As the curtains draw to a close, we find ourselves immersed in a world of passion, drama, and unbreakable ties, leaving us spellbound by the extraordinary voices and enthralling family dynamics. Prepare to be moved, uplifted, and thoroughly entertained by this extraordinary production, where each note, each emotion, and each connection intertwine to create a powerfully modern cathartic experience.
Experience Janáček’s Jenůfa, onstage at Lyric for five performances only, November 12-26.
Header image: Tristram Kenton/Royal Opera House