Listen to a Sample:
Even though Jenufa is the quintessential Czech opera, it owes a great deal of its prominence to the German speaking countries that championed it. For example, the Germans were the ones who switched the name to Jenufa from Janacek's original title "Její pastorkyna" which translates to "Her Stepdaughter" (the "her" being Kostelnicka.) Astrid Varnay shows why the focus of the opera should be on Kostelnicka giving an outstanding performance that is stern, grotesque while also tender and loving. Although it is true that her voice was somewhat weathered in the 70s, the power is still there and she manages the high notes admirably particularly the c-flat in her monologue. But Varnay's true genius is in her outstanding abilities as an actress and that shines through in this recording. Hildegard Hillebrecht is very well suited to Jenufa and is ravishing in the prayer. The other star of this set is the conductor, Rafael Kubelik who makes this complicated score come across as an organic expression of the drama. The sound is outstanding.