We lift the lid on Káťa Kabanová - Janáček's intensely lyrical piece that blends bold national colours with universal drama. Image © Tom Hammick
In the video below, opera expert Alexandra Coghlan meets director Damiano Michieletto, singer Nicky Spence and historian Rosamund Bartlett to get under the skin of the piece.
So sit back and take five minutes to fall in love with Káťa Kabanová…
A brief introduction
The first of Janáček’s four late, great operas, Káťa Kabanová is a turning point for a composer who came late to fame and success – his arrival at musical maturity. Premiered when Janáček was 67, the work is charged with the energy of an impossible love for a woman who would inspire so many of Janáček’s greatest heroines and scores.
Trapped in an unhappy marriage and a small town filled with even smaller minds, Káťa Kabanová longs for escape, for beauty, kindness, love. But when she finds herself drawn into an affair with the outsider Boris, her guilt overwhelms her. Her confession rips lives and families apart, leaving Káťa herself with no way out.
Song mirrors speech more closely than ever before in Káťa Kabanová, and the Czech folk melodies that decorate the surface of the composer’s earlier works are woven into the fabric of an opera that blends bold national colours with dramatic naturalism and musical fluidity to create one of the 20th century’s most beautiful and powerful pieces of theatre.
Why not to miss this production
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of this modern masterpiece – a drama that wears its heart on its musical sleeve, sweeping you along in the turbulent beauty of its score. Inspired by Janáček’s overwhelming infatuation with the married, much-younger Kamila Stosslova, Káťa Kabanová is a passionate, intimate musical portrait of an innocent in a cynical world. The hypocrisy of society collides with the violence of nature, with Káťa herself – one of opera’s most fascinating heroines – caught in the middle.
Damiano Michieletto’s timeless new production takes us inside Kaťa’s mind, into a strange and disorienting world of conflicting desires and duties, reality and fantasy.
A great moment to look out for
A love-duet is always a highlight of any opera, but what happens when you multiply that intensity by two? Act II of Káťa Kabanová features an unusual double love-duet.
Varvara has persuaded her sister Káťa to sneak out to meet the schoolmaster Kudrjaš after dark. In the foreground we see and hear the courtship of the younger couple, set to lyrical folk-inspired music. Their easy familiarity and sensuality is set against the freighted tension of the first romantic encounter between Káťa and the outsider Boris. We hear their struggle against their illicit affair in the overwhelming chromatic intensity and wide-ranging lines of music that floats on from offstage, mingling and mixing with that of Varvara and Kudrjaš in a heady quartet.
The atmosphere is charged with emotion: possibility, tenderness and desire colliding with a powerful sense of threat.
Cast and creative team
Images L-R: David Butt Philip in Hamlet (Tour 2017) / Kateřina Knĕžíková / Nicky Spence in In the Market for Love rehearsals (summer 2020)
Glyndebourne’s Music Director Robin Ticciati conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Festival’s first new production of Káťa Kabanová for over 30 years. This staging is directed by Olivier Award-winning Italian director Damiano Michieletto (praised for the ‘cinematic’ sweep and ‘gripping’ drama of his recent Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci at the Royal Opera), who makes his Glyndebourne debut.
Rising star Czech soprano Kateřina Knĕžíková – recently hailed for her ‘burnished’ tone and ‘moving’ performances – sings the title role, with distinguished mezzo-soprano Katarina Dalayman as her tormentor, the cruel widow Kabanicha. Two Glyndebourne favourites – British tenors David Butt Philip (‘Uncompromising conviction and blazing intensity’) and Nicky Spence (‘A voice of real distinction’) – complete Káťa’s love-triangle as her lover Boris and husband Tichon. Russian mezzo Aigul Akhmetshina and New Zealand tenor Thomas Atkins complete the cast as young lovers Varvara and Kudrjas.
Set the spotlight back on our world-class productions
Help light the way for the return of our Festival season. Nicky Spence, who will play Tichon in Káťa Kabanova, explains how you can support this new production:
The Charles Holloway Charitable Trust and a Syndicate of Individuals
Image credits: Káťa Kabanová rehearsals – Richard Hubert Smith | Hamlet, Tour 2017 – Richard Hubert Smith | Kateřina Kněžíková – Ilona Sochorová | In the Market for Love rehearsals – Richard Hubert Smith