But this was a weekend Freud could be proud of. The main character in “Jenufa,” set amid tangled romantic and familial relationships in a 19th-century Moravian village, is secretly pregnant by a man who refuses to marry her. Her stepmother, a civic figure known as Kostelnicka, desperate to prevent the family from falling from grace, kills the baby, a crime whose discovery leads to a stunned and sublime gesture of forgiveness.
For this stark, agonizing story, Janacek wrote spicy music, lush but sharply angled, with unstable rhythms and turbulent depths; obsessively repeated motifs, as anxious as the characters; passages of folkloric sweetness; vocal lines inspired by spoken Czech to achieve astonishing naturalness even in lyrical flight and emotional extremity; and radiant climaxes.
Davidsen’s upper voice is his glory: steely in impact but never harsh or forced, emanating like focused rays of sunlight. (In Janacek’s fast, loquacious music, half of his voice was not projected as clearly, but this is a quibble.)
For a singer with such commanding ability, she is remarkably beautiful in a floating silence. She played the character with prayerful dignity, which she recalls Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello”; At the beginning of the third act, when Jenufa begins to think that her suffering might finally be behind her, Davidsen registered a cautious but real happiness on her face and in her refreshing tone. She is a singer who acts with her voice.
I’ve always thought of Jenufa and Kostelnicka as antagonists, a spirited young woman taking on a repressive older generation, but this performance poignantly suggested that they are more alike than different: two independent-minded women, both isolated from the town’s mainstream. And Stemme’s voice remains strong and even; This is not your typical acid-toned Kostelnicka; In a gentle duet at the beginning of the second act, she and Davidsen did a combination that evoked “Norma”-type bel canto.
Hrusa supported that sensitivity on the podium. His vision of the score emphasizes the sheer beauty of it, encouraging gentle lyricism and a kind of musical patience, letting the drama unfold rather than spurring it on. Sometimes this feels like softness, at the expense of a spiky intensity. But the fact that this “Jenufa” is performed as something like a sustained hymn often intensifies the painful tragedy.