Comment 108216

By Sally Garden (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 16:22:19

"I Google information on the life of Janáček, looking not so much for the artist himself, as for a sense of the artist's time and place and community and loved ones. Here is the most beautiful and nurturing image I come across..."

This paragraph is followed by a historical image of a woman and a young child, followed in turn by its contemporary equivalent and the comment: "An image unmistakably of Janáček's world, and at the same time utterly timeless."

Alas, the composer's world and work also included quite different experiences.

I remember very well huddling in the second balcony at the former home of C.O.C., tears flowing, during the impossibly redemptive finale of Jenufa.

From the synopsis, available on the Met's site:

" ACT II. While everyone thinks she is in Vienna working as a servant, Jenufa has remained hidden at home and given birth to a boy. Her proud stepmother cannot bear the shame and has sent secretly for Števa. After giving the girl sleeping medicine, she tells him about the baby and kneels before him, begging him to wed Jenufa and claim his son. But he refuses to take a disfigured bride... Next Jenufa's distraught stepmother turns to Laca, who is eager to marry the girl but so taken aback to hear about her baby that Kostelnicka on an impulse pretends it is dead. There is only one way out for her now, she feels. Taking the child, she heads for the frozen millstream to drown him. When Jenufa wakes, she prays for her child, but her stepmother returns to tell the girl she has been in a coma for two days, during which the baby died..."

Community can also be a many-tentacled tyranny. In opera it usually claims the lives of women, although Jenufa does escape with hers. In the world, it is a little different, but every time a tentacle is cut, it seems to regenerate again.

Oh. Nice piece, by the way.

Our technical capacity to mediatize existence ie grab from the communal respository all sorts of things to embellish acounts of the associative paths of consciousness is becoming another puzzle for an already pretty puzzled bunch of primates. Are we being augmented or diminished by being pushed further out of immediacy? The problem keeps getting sharper and sharper as our intellectual prosthetics get better and better. I don't think that there is only one vast text which is circulated by readers and writers between which there is not much distinction. In an "unilluminated" text, ie one consisting in print only,the work of the author in making the subjective objective ie putting the thought in writing, is much greater than the work of the reader in making the objective subjective again. But I wonder if the ratio is changing. Being able to paste in an illustration on the fly, rather than describing a black and white photo of mother and child ie evoking it in the reader's mind is less work, but then again for the reader to be satisfied with a composition, it has to have at least as much "play" in it for them as the print-only piece does, which is what this piece seems to achieve. It is a kind of cinema. But also digressive and self-correcting in the way that oral accounts are.

Anyway. I would also suspect Mr Fenton of harbouring satirical inclinations, given the traffic obsessions of his patrons, were if not for his reassuring remark that he is a "well-intentioned man." I have heard that it is possible to be both well-intentioned and an ironist, but surely not here in Hamilton, last bastion of the Folk.


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