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Katya Kabanova review at Theatre Royal, Glasgow – ‘exceptional’

Laura Wilde in Scottish Opera's Katya Kabanova. Photo: James Glossop
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Scottish Opera’s fine production of Katya Kabanova – directed by Stephen Lawless, vividly conducted by Stuart Stratford, and performed in the original Czech – is one of tremendous power.

Many elements combine to achieve this. Designer Leslie Travers has created a monumental set dominated by a vast, rusty iron bridge traversing the muddy reed-beds of a small town on the river Volga during the late Soviet era. An all-pervading sense of universal decay is heightened by Christopher Akerlind’s pitiless lighting.

Both the wider local community and the drama’s central participants are rendered in sharp definition. Laura Wilde conveys poignantly the heart-rending frailty of the heroine, constantly bullied by her controlling mother-in-law Kabanicha, whom Patricia Bardon expertly humanises without in any way diluting her cruel nature.

Let down by the two men in her life, Katya disintegrates. The inadequacy of her weak, alcoholic husband Tichon is laid painfully bare in Samuel Sakker’s lithe-voiced portrayal, while the irresponsibility of her here-today, gone-tomorrow lover Boris is persuasively represented via Ric Furman’s tensile tenor.

Paul Whelan’s blustering bully Dikoy, ostentatiously covered in the fatuous medals of his Soviet past, Hanna Hipp’s pleasure-seeking Varvara and Trystan Llyr Griffiths’ laddish Vanya all register strongly.

The choral and orchestral work is impeccable throughout, while Stratford’s command of the subtle coloristic range of Janacek’s score repeatedly enriches the overall emotional experience.

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Scottish Opera’s exceptional realisation of Janacek’s small-town tragedy