Jenůfa (also known as Her Stepdaughter; Czech: Její pastorkyňa) is a 1904 three-act opera by Leo Janáček, based on a play Její pastorkyňa by Gabriela Preissová (later novelized by the same author). It is considered to be the composer's first opera to embody his characteristic style and is well-known for its use of Moravian national musical tones and for its grim and controversial libretto. Janáček dedicated the opera to his daughter Olga, who died while he was composing it.
The plot centers around a Big, Screwed-Up Family in a Moravian village. Jenůfa is in love with her irresponsible cousin teva and is already expecting his child. However, her stepmother Kostelnička (the female sacristan and keeper of the church keys), who used to suffer Domestic Abuse at the hands of her husband and claims teva is alarmingly similar to his uncle, insists on postponing the wedding until teva can prove he can remain sober for a year.
Meanwhile, teva's stepbrother Laca is madly in love with Jenůfa and slashes her face in a jealous rage, after which teva claims she has lost her beauty and cheerfulness and dumps her for good.
Jenůfa reveals her pregnancy to her stepmother, who hides her in the house to avoid the shame and announces the girl has gone to work in Vienna. When the child is born, Kostelnička implores teva to marry Jenůfa, but he refuses. Laca, who has been tormented with remorse and constantly inquired after Jenůfa's wellbeing, asks for her hand, but is shocked when he learns she has given birth to teva's baby. On an impulse, Kostelnička tells him the baby has died and goes on to make it the truth, drowning the child near the mill. Jenufa is told the baby died of natural causes.
Laca and Jenůfa's wedding is held in the early days of spring, when suddenly, right before the ceremony, the baby's body is discovered under melted ice. At first Jenůfa is accused of murder, until Kostelnička confesses the truth and begs for her stepdaughter's forgiveness. Jenůfa prays for her as she is led to prison. The girl is ready to release Laca from his promise, but he tells her he will always stand by her side.
The opera contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Every man carrying the last name of Buryja.
- All There in the Manual: Many details (such as more information on the Tangled Family Tree, or the fact that Laca has already been in the army and wanted to confess his love for Jenůfa after coming back, only to find her having eyes only for teva) can be found in the original play and the novelization.
- Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Kostelnička gets one in the second act.Kostelnička (to herself): Who'll save her?Laca (opening the door): That's me, aunt.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Buryjas. The old grandmother and Kostelnička who constantly argue, teva the drunkard and Laca the Yandere (even though the latter is technically not a Buryja). The other men of the family are implied to have fallen victims to alcoholism. Jenůfa is the only normal-tempered person.
- Bittersweet Ending: Jenůfa's baby is dead, revealed to have been killed by her stepmother who is now taken away for trial; but Laca has reformed and Jenůfa has found love and solace with him, and teva's character finally gets exposed in front of the entire village.
- Born Lucky: teva. Handsome, heir to the mill, doted on by his grandmother, the darling of the girls, and he doesnt get drafted into the army despite having the ideal build and strength for a soldier. Lampshaded by his grandmother and the old miller in the first act.
- Break the Cutie:
- Poor, poor Jenůfa.
- Her stepmother suffered it as well thanks to her marriage to Buryja. She used to be a romantic girl madly in love with him before she saw what a scoundrel he was.
- Cassandra Truth: Every time a girl falls for someone from the Buryja clan, others try to warn her, usually with zero result. The only exception is Karolka, teva's fiancée, who breaks off the engagement after learning of his child with Jenůfa.
- Crosscast Role: Jano is a soprano. To avoid costuming difficulties and due to the fact that it makes absolutely no difference to the plot, he is sometimes changed into a girl.
- Death of a Child: The main tragedy of the second and third acts.
- Defiled Forever: Jenůfas chief fear in the first act is that teva wont marry her before her pregnancy shows. Afterwards, Kostelnička is frightened the girl will become a pariah with a child out of wedlock (although later she admits she was thinking of her own reputation rather than her stepdaughter's).
- Died Happily Ever After: Kostelnička tries to defend herself from her own conscience (see Mercy Kill below) by repeating the boy will go to Heaven; later, it also becomes the only consolation to Jenůfa in her grief.
- Disappeared Dad: Every major characters father is either dead or uninterested in the child.
- The Ditz: The most common portrayal of Karolka, the mayors daughter and tevas fiancée. She seems not to realize that teva used to be Jenůfas boyfriend and that their presence makes Jenůfa and Kostelnička uneasy, to say the least.
- Domestic Abuse: Kostelnička was repeatedly beaten by her husband, so often that she had to run away and hide from him.
- Dropping the Bombshell: When Laca asks Kostelnička for Jenůfa's hand.Kostelnička: And a week ago she had a son... teva's son. (Laca gapes in shock)
- Flowers of Romance: Played with.
- teva gets a bouquet from one of his admirers (not Jenůfa), but quickly forgets about it.
- Laca brings Jenůfa flowers from another town for their wedding. However, she is too depressed to really appreciate the gesture (in some productions, she doesn't even take them, in some she takes them quietly after he is worried she won't like them).
- Good Stepmother: Zig-zagged for all its worth. Kostelnička has brought Jenůfa up like her own daughter, and the latter calls her "mother", and Kostelnička claims she does everything for the girl's sake, however, it's not that simple.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Inverted dramatically with the Buryja men, all of whom have golden hair.
- HeelFace Turn: Lacas whole arc. The contrast between him in act one (blaming everything on everyone else) and him in act three (blaming everything on himself, even the things he clearly isnt responsible for) is clear.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: The old miller in the first act is sure Laca has one somewhere deep down, foreshadowing his Character Development.
- History Repeats: Kostelnička is afraid Jenůfa's marriage to teva will be like her own to Tomá, and she is determined to prevent it no matter what.
- Illegal Guardian: Laca says that Grandmother Buryja has pocketed his part of the inheritance. Of course, it might not be entirely true, but on the other hand, she does not explicitly deny it.
- It Runs in the Family: All the Buryja men are irresponsible, alcoholic, sometimes abusive jerks.
- It's All My Fault: Laca in the final act.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: After two and a half acts of cheerfully taking part in ruining Jenůfas life, teva finally has to face the consequences of his actions in front of the entire village.
- Kissing Cousins: teva and Jenůfa. It is not dwelled on in the opera, but Kostelnička brings it up as yet another obstacle for their relationship in the play. Laca, while legally teva's brother, isn't related to Jenůfa.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: According to Gabriela Preissová, Kostelnička is barren but has always longed for a child of her own, which is one of the reasons for the problems with her sanity.
- Mercy Kill: How Kostelnička tries to justify the murder in her inner monologue if the boy lives (she reasons), his birth will make him miserable forever, if he dies now, he goes to Heaven and Jenůfa's reputation is saved.
- Mood Whiplash: The wedding celebration just begins to get actually merry... when Jano rushes in and cries a baby's body is discovered.
- Moral Myopia: Grandmother Buryja used to blatantly ignore Laca when he, an orphaned boy, reached out to her for comfort. Now she is angry that he doesnt treat her as family. They both get better towards the end of the opera, however.
- Must Make Amends: Laca says he will try to atone for his sin for the rest of his life.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
Laca: What have I done to you? Jenůfka! I have loved you, I have loved you since childhood!
- Laca, after realizing he has slashed Jenůfas face.
- An inversion ("My God, what am I about to do?") in Kostelničkas most famous monologue before the babys murder.
- My Secret Pregnancy: In the beginning, Jenůfa is four months pregnant, and nobody but teva (whom she has told) is aware of it.
- Parental Favoritism: A grandparental variation. Grandmother Buryja has always strongly favored teva (her grandson by blood) over Laca. It is shown to be a major negative influence on both of them: teva is spoiled rotten, and Laca lashes out his rage at everybody around him.
- Parental Hypocrisy: Brought up in the wedding song. Its text is in the form of a dialogue between a mother and a daughter the mother says the daughter is too young to marry, while the daughter replies that the mother was just as impatient to marry when she was her age.
- Secret Test of Character: Laca hopes it's that trope when Kostelnička tells him about the baby. However, it's the truth.
- Shipper on Deck: Kostelnička actively ships Laca and Jenůfa.
- Shipping Torpedo: In the first act, Laca and Kostelnička try with all their might to break up teva and Jenůfa.
- Shotgun Wedding: Kostelnička attempts to invoke it with teva and Jenůfa after the baby's birth. teva refuses point blank and says he'll pay as much as she wants as long as nobody learns the kid is his (since the baby clearly takes after him and it's a small village, it would have been rather difficult).
- Stealth Insult: Jenůfa towards teva.Jenůfa (to teva and Laca): Each of you has something good you, teva, have your good looks, but Laca has a kind, loving soul.
- Strong Family Resemblance: The Buryja men are all dashingly handsome, with golden hair. teva Jr., Jenůfas son, is also said to be the spitting image of his father, even though the poor baby only gets to live for several days.
- Tangled Family Tree: It is said that Janáček had to explain it to the librettos publisher who was lost in trying to figure out who is related to whom; and even now many plot summaries on theatres' websites get mistaken. So (deep breath). Grandmother Buryja was married to Old Buryja, who died. They had two sons. The elder was first married to the widow Klemeň, who had a son, Laca, from her previous marriage, then to another woman who gave birth to teva. The younger was married first to a woman named Jenůfa who is the titular heroines mother, and then to Kostelnička. Jenůfa the main heroine has a child by teva (also named teva) and later marries Laca.
- Tenor Boy: Surprisingly for an opera with not one but two leading tenors, averted. teva might look like your Tenor Boy but he is anything but, being a selfish, amoral drunkard, and Laca, even after his Character Development, is far too conflicted to fit the trope.
- Unconventional Wedding Dress: Jenufa wears a simple dark-colored dress for her wedding, because she is mourning her illegitimate son who died a couple of months earlier. His very existence is kept a carefully-guarded secret, so when one of the guests expresses surprise at Jenufa's choice of clothes, her stepmother claims that in high society, every lady marries in a plain dress.