Leos Janacek cared about words. He’d hang about central Brno, notebook in hand, eavesdropping on conversations and trying to capture their exact rhythm and intonation in scribbled semitones and quavers. So there’s a tidy irony in the fact that the opera that made his name isn’t really called Jenufa at all. Janacek called it Jeji Pastorkyna, and if it’s easy enough for non-Czech speakers to understand why that was never likely to travel, it’s not without consequence. Another woman drives this story, and in the original title she’s present but unnamed: Jenufa’s stepmother, described simply as Kostelnicka, or churchwarden. Jeji Pastorkyna translates roughly as ‘Her Stepdaughter’.
No matter. When you watch the opera, the complexities untangle themselves, and you might even argue that the renaming heightens the dramatic effect.