The Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a capacity of 3,300 seats making it the second largest opera house in the USA after the Metropolitan Opera, staged Janáček's opera Jenůfa from 12-26 November 2023. In the foyer of the theatre, the series of performances was accompanied by an exhibition dedicated to Leoš Janáček, prepared by TIC BRNO and the Moravian Museum in cooperation with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago and the Lyric Opera. The musical staging in Chicago was undertaken by Brno-born conductor Jakub Hrůša.
The Chicago production of Jenůfa, directed by Claus Guth, was first performed in 2021 at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production. The musical staging in Chicago was provided by leading Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, for whom the Lyric Opera première was also his American operatic début. The cast of singers was international, with Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen and Swedish opera star Nina Stemme as the two female protagonists, Jenůfa and Kostelnička. The only Czech singer in this production was another Brno native: tenor Pavel Čenoch in the role of Laca.
As is standard on the world's opera stages, Janáček's opera on the text of Gabriela Preissová's play was sung by the singers in the original language, thus in Czech. When studying Czech pronunciation, they used the transcription of the text using the characters of the international phonetic alphabet, which allows the phonetic transcription of any language. English subtitles placed above the stage ensured clarity for the audience.
The series of performances was accompanied directly at the Lyric Opera’s premises by an exhibition presenting Leoš Janáček, who is the most performed Czech opera composer in the world today. The exhibition outlines the different stages of Janáček's life, his arrival in Brno as a young boy, his studies, his unhappy family life accompanied by the death of both his children, his long and difficult struggle for recognition and the last period known as the Grand Old Age, i.e., the last ten years of Janáček's life in the newly established Czechoslovak state, when all his greatest works were written. The exhibition also briefly introduced Janáček's legacy in contemporary Brno and included an invitation to the Janáček Brno 2024 festival.
"We are very pleased that after the successful cooperation with the Czech Centre and the Consulate in Rome for the installation of an exhibition in the Rome Opera House, we have now managed to realise a joint project with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago and the production team of Lyric Opera. We consider the exhibition directly in the foyer of the theatre to be an effective tool to introduce visitors to Janáček and to present Brno as a city of music. And we are already looking forward to the next exhibition in Rome, where this production of Jenůfa will move next spring," said Šárka Zahrádková, manager of the Janáček Brno project.