Opera Scotland

Kátya Kabanová

Music
Leoš Janáček (born Hukvaldy, 3 July 1854; died Ostrava, 12 August 1928)

Text
The composer, adapting a Czech translation by Vincenc Červinka.

Source
Play The Storm (1859), by Alexander Ostrovsky (Russian 1823-1886)

Premieres
First performance: Brno (National Theatre), 23 November 1921.
First UK performance: BBC Radio, 28 December 1948.
First UK stage production: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 10 April 1951.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), August 1964.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 4 April 1979.

Background
Janáček earned a living as a music teacher for many years before his compositions were recognised, and he only achieved success at a late stage in his career. The sixth of Janáček’s nine operas, Katya is arguably the most conventional of his mature works. It achieved international success quite quickly and found acceptance more easily than his other operas, which became popular only in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Main Characters
Marfa Kabanová, a merchant’s widow (mezzo-soprano)
Tichon Kabanov, her son (tenor)
Varvara, her foster-daughter (mezzo-soprano)
Katerina (Katya) Kabanova, Tichon’s wife (soprano)
Savël Dikoj, a merchant (bass)
Boris, his nephew (tenor)
Váňa Kudrjaš, Dikoj’s clerk (tenor)
Kuligin, a friend of Váňa (baritone)
Glaša, the Kabanovs’ servant (mezzo-soprano)

Plot Summary
The location is a small Russian town on the banks of the river Volga. Mid-19th century.
Katya is unhappily married to Tichon, living in a household dominated by her mother-in-law, (known as Kabanicha).
Boris is financially dependent on his uncle, and is visiting from Moscow to persuade him to be more generous to him and his sister.
Tichon is sent away for a few days on business, and this gives Boris an opportunity to seduce Katya.
This fraught relationship is contrasted with the happy affair between Varvara and Váňa, who by the end of the opera decide to run away to live in Moscow.
The tragic climax is reached after Tichon’s return, during a violent storm on the riverbank. Katya, driven to madness by her sense of guilt, confesses all, throws herself into the river, and drowns. Tichon blames his mother for driving her to it, while Kabanicha stoically gives formal thanks to her neighbours for their help.

RECORDINGS

CHANDOS CHAN 3145 (2 mid-price CDs) Sung in English Recorded 2006

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi
Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Cheryl Barker (Katya), Jane Henschel (Kabanicha), Robert Brubaker (Boris).

The notable feature of this recording is that it is sung in English, largely in the Norman Tucker translation that has featured regularly in performances by most of the British companies. All the singers project those words clearly and the drama comes across strongly. The Orchestra of Welsh National Opera have been playing Janáček regularly for over thirty years and have complete familiarity with the style.

DECCA 421 852-2 (2 mid-price CDs) Sung in Czech Recorded 1976

Conductor: Sir Charles Mackerras
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Elisabeth Söderström (Katya), Naděžda Kniplová (Kabanicha), Petr Dvorský (Boris).

This is the mould-breaking recording that began the series of five of the great Janacek operas made by Mackerras with the Vienna Philharmonic. He had worked on the opera regularly since his studies in Prague after the war, and conducted the British premiere in 1951. Here he makes notable changes to the traditional version, adding interlude music previously ignored and restoring the composer’s orchestration. Soderstrom sang Katya all over the world, including with Welsh National Opera, and she learned the role in a number of languages. Her performance is superbly detailed. The rest of the cast of native Czech speakers are just as good. The Vienna Philharmonic were not previously associated with Janacek’s music, but still sound wonderful, with an unusual lushness to the sound.

SUPRAPHON 10 8016-2 612 (2 mid-price CDs) Sung in Czech Recorded 1959

Conductor: Jaroslav Krombholc
Orchestra of the Prague National Theatre
Drahomíra Tikalová (Katya), Ludmila Komancová (Kabanicha), Beno Blachut (Boris).

This recording was for many years the only one available. The edition of the score by Vaclav Talich was traditionally used before Mackerras made his adjustments which have now become standard practice. In spite of this the performance is well worth hearing. For its age, the recording still sounds vivid. Beno Blachut was the leading Czech tenor in the post-war years, and he and many of the singers came with Krombholc to the 1964 Edinburgh Festival, including Katya in their repertoire.

ARTHAUS 100158 (1 DVD) Sung in Czech Recorded 1988

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis Director: Nikolaus Lehnhoff
London Philharmonic Orchestra Designer: Tobias Hoheisel
Nancy Gustafson (Katya), Felicity Palmer (Kabanicha), Barry McCauley (Boris).

One of a trilogy of Janacek classics directed by Lehnhoff for Glyndebourne, this gives a dramatic staging, consistently well played and sung. It is particularly memorable for the startlingly unusual expressionist set designs by Tobias Hoheisel, dominated by bright shades, in a work which usually looks rather dull.

The Cast

Boris Grigorievich
 Dikoj's nephew
Bystander
 
Feklusha
 a pilgrim
Glaša
 an old servant
Káterina Kabanová
 known as Katya, Tikhon's wife
Kuligin
 a friend of Vána
Marfa Ignatyevna Kabanová
 a merchant's widow, called Kabanicha
Savel Prokofievich Dikoj
 a merchant
Tikhon Ivanovich Kabanov
 Kabanicha's son
Váňa Kudrjaš
 a school teacher
Varvara
 foster-child in the Kabanov household

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha