Juilliard Opera, at the Juilliard School, ended its season with three performances of Leoš Janácek’s terse and dramatic “Katya Kabanova,” from April 21 to 25, and the first of those is considered here. Anne Manson, presiding in the pit, galvanized the young singers and musicians into a striking ensemble, capable of doing impressive justice to this expansive, demanding, and tempestuous early 20th century opera, based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s play “The Storm” also known as “The Thunderstorm.”
Felicia Moore lent a tangy lyric soprano and sympathetic presence to the eponymous Katya’s soaring, then pained daydreams of flying and romantic love; savoring of her ‘illicit,’ impassioned tryst with Boris, when Tichon is away; conveying her guilt and then confessing, to the forgiving—and not—Tichon and implacable Kabanicha; and finally, bringing pathos to her suicide aria, before she jumps into the Volga River.
Tenors Miles Mykkanen, as Katya’s meek, mama’s boy husband Tichon, and Gerard Schneider, as her alluring lover Boris, made worthy, contrasting foils to Moore’s heroine. Mezzo-soprano Sara Couden was the relentlessly cold and crushing Kabanicha, ruling her son Tichon, daughter-in-law Katya, and most everyone else with the proverbial iron hand. Lyric mezzo Samantha Hankey, as Varvara, Kabanicha’s foster daughter and Katya’s ally, and tenor Sam Levine, as her beau Vanya, made an agreeable ‘second couple.’
An inspired touch by director Stephen Wadsworth was showing the icy Kabanicha in a rare light-hearted moment, in a playful rendezvous with a drunken Dikoj (Alex Rosen), Boris’ uncle, which served to heighten the effect of the matriarch’s more customary self-righteous hypocrisy. Less inspired was the ‘violated’ marriage bed, twisting aloft in the storms, literal and emotional, and seeming like a refugee from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Maria Fernanda Brea, Nicole Thomas, Xiaomeng Zhang, Kady Evanyshyn, and Chance Jonas-O’Toole were the other soloists. Designs were by Charlie Corcoran (sets), Vita Tzykun (costumes), Nicole Pearce (lighting), and Anne Ford-Coates (wigs and makeup).
“Katya Kabanova” was sung in Yveta Synek Graff and Robert T. Jones’ English translation of Janácek’s Czech libretto. Visit www.juilliard.edu
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