Stories from the Archive

Káťa Kabanová at Glyndebourne

We take a look back at our classic production of Janáček's Káťa Kabanová as we look forward to the debut of a brand new interpretation for Festival 2021.

Kát’a Kabanová was first introduced to a British audience in London in 1951.

However, she would not set foot on the South Downs until 1988, when Glyndebourne staged its first performance of Leoš Janáček’s devastatingly powerful opera.

Prior to Festival 2021, Káťa Kabanová has only ever been staged once at Glyndebourne, with a critically acclaimed production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. In anticipation of a new production by Damiano Michieletto for Festival 2021, we look back at Lehnhoff’s production, one of Glyndebourne’s biggest successes.

One of the most striking things about Lehnhoff’s production is the set and costume designs by Tobias Hoheisel. The costumes are void of much colour and contrast wonderfully with the intensely bright colours of the stage designs. Vivid blue, orange and even purple skies set against yellow grass and pathways that run into red walled interiors, with colours changing throughout the scenes. Afternoon turns to evening before the audience’s eyes – orange to purple.

As the New York Times noted in their review of the 1998 revival of the production, ‘the inanimate world proclaims what most of the characters dare not reveal: how much heat and vividness they contain’.

Glyndebourne’s second Janáček production (The Cunning Little Vixen was the first), was universally well received by critics, with Malcolm Hayes in The Sunday Telegraph proclaiming that the production was ‘another of those overwhelming experiences, after which the world seems a different place’. With Edward Greenfield in The Guardian noting ‘if in returning to Janáček the company was aiming to introduce a breath of fresh air, the plan has succeeded marvelously’.

Much of the production lives on in the archive at Glyndebourne. The collection is fortunate enough to hold original 1987-88 pencil designs for Káťa, Tichon and Kuligin by Hoheisel. In addition, the archive holds original costumes of Káťa and Boris Grogorjevic from the 2002 Festival revival production.

L-R: Tobias Hoheisel’s costume design for Káťa (detail), 1988. Photo: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. © Tobias Hoheisel | Káťa’s costume, worn by Amanda Roocroft in 1998. Photo: Mike Hoban | Tobias Hoheisel’s costume designs for Tichon and Kuligin (details), 1987. Photo: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. © Tobias Hoheisel | Boris’s costume, worn by Par Lindskog in 2002. Photo: Mike Hoban

Káťa Kabanová Glyndebourne production history:

  • 1988 Glyndebourne Festival, debut production
  • 1988 Glyndebourne Touring Opera, revival
  • 1990 Glyndebourne Festival, revival
  • 1992 Glyndebourne Touring Opera, revival
  • 1998 Glyndebourne Festival, revival
  • 2002 Glyndebourne Festival, revival
  • 2021 Glyndebourne Festival, new production

You can explore each of these productions, including full cast lists and performance dates, by searching our Performance Archive.

Image: the 1988 Tour programme featured an image from Káťa Kabanová  on the cover.

Written by Philip Boot, Glyndebourne Archivist


Main image: Káťa Kabanová at Festival 1998. Photo: Guy Gravett.

A brand new production of Káťa Kabanová opens the 2021 Glyndebourne Festival in May

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