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Katya Kabanova review at Grand Theatre Leeds

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Tim Albery’s new production of Janacek’s heartrending opera brings it forward to the time of the work’s 1921 premiere rather than the 1860s of the original, based on Ostrovsky’s classic play, The Storm. But the scrutinising inhabitants of a small Russian town are acutely observed in his production, while Hildegard Bechtler’s mottled designs – mostly variations on dark green, sensitively lit by Peter Mumford – point up the oppressive atmosphere of a community whose outmoded conventions stifle the tragic heroine.

Katya is sung by Giselle Allen. It is her finest performance to date, though the role takes her to the limits of her lyric soprano and words could sometimes be clearer. But her presentation of a married woman on the edge, finally pushed over by the combination of an illicit affair and her vicious mother-in-law, is superbly realised. So is Sally Burgess’s Kabanicha, the mother-in-law from hell, with Burgess never failing to humanise a potentially one-note character.

Peter Wedd excels in his portrayal of Boris, Katya’s lover, whose swift exit from the town after she has publicly admitted their affair makes Katya’s suicide inevitable. Noteable also is John Graham Hall as her feeble, dipsomaniac husband, Tichon. But there are no weak links in this marvellous cast.

Nor are there on the orchestral side. Opera North’s ensemble has a great evening, achieving wonders with Janacek’s difficult but emotionally powerful writing under the baton of the company’s music director, Richard Farnes.

Production Information

Grand Theatre, Leeds, April 21, 28, 30, then touring

Tim Albery
Opera North
Cast includes
Giselle Allen, Sally Burgess, John Graham Hall, Peter Wedd, Wendy Dawn Thompson
Running time
1hr 45min
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