Janacek Katia Kabanová
This is an excellent production of an opera whose plot causes it to fall just short of greatness. Kát’a is stuck in a marriage with a drunken husband and a mother-in-law from hell. She finds passion in a love affair, but ruins everything by a needless confession to her husband followed by her suicide. The lover is admittedly not ideal, but he is definitely an improvement on the husband. Maddening!
Robert Carsen’s production is dominated by water. The set, designed by Patrick Kinmonth, consists of a flooded stage, the action taking place on duckboards. During the Prelude, bodies clothed in white are seen prone in the water. They are young women – other Kát’as, other suicides – who reappear during the interludes and who also form a group of silent witnesses to the scene between Dikoj and the Kabanicha. During the storm, after Kát’a’s confession, they thrash around in the turbulent water.
Karita Mattila as Kát’a is stupendous. When we first see her, being insulted by her mother-in-law, she is dignity itself. Her stillness changes to an equally mesmerising eroticism when, in the second scene, she describes her dreams and fantasies to Varvara. In a significant anticipation of her end, she almost falls into the water when comparing her adulterous desires to being pushed off a cliff. Mattila’s acting, after Varvara has given her the key to the garden gate so she can meet Boris at night, is faultless in its progression from hesitancy to impassioned resolve. In her final monologue, her hair dishevelled, her misery and longing are heartbreaking. Throughout, Mattila sings with a flood of golden tone.
Dalia Schaechter’s Kabanicha is younger than usual, making her liaison with Dikoj quite believable. Guy de Mey, in a business suit, is the epitome of a weak husband. Miroslav Dvorsky and Gordon Gietz are fine – a pity that the former ducks his top C – and Natascha Petrinsky is an uncommonly forceful Varvara. Jirí Belohlávek’s conducting is beautifully judged, whether in tension or release. Utterly brilliant!