"From Alienation to Abnegation: Jenufa and the Metaphysicsof Dramatic and Musical Discourse at the Turn of Century"
Matthew M. Werley
Historical discussions of Leos Janácek's Jenufa(1903) have primarily drawn attention to issues of realism and nationalismat the turn of century. The tight musical discourse between its speech-melodystyle and orchestral apparatus represents the composer's ingenious solutionto several aesthetic problems remaining in the wake of the Wagnerian legacy(Tyrrell, 1968). Furthermore, the coupling of late nineteenth-century harmonicpractice with its provincial subject matter also orients Jenufa towardthe larger European movements of realism and an emerging musical modernism(Dahlhaus, 1985). But how do these aesthetic observations condition ananalysis of the work?
This paper seeks to address, from this premise, severaldramatic and musical techniques that Janácek deploys throughoutJenufa. By focusing on the character Laca — who bears great structuralsignificance for the opera — through an accompanying Stanislavskian (dramatic)and Schenkerian (musical) analysis (Marcozzi, 1992; Latham, 2000), we canobserve how traditional operatic conventions are negotiated within Janácek'sown brand of modernism. A closer look at a pivotal scene in Act II furtherilluminates the collision of dramatic forces which situate Laca in a long-rangetrajectory from a position of social alienation to one of abnegation.
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