[Met Performance] CID:303530
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Kát'a Kabanová {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/25/1991.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debuts: Gabriela Benacková, Peter Straka, Jonathan Miller, Robert Israel
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 25, 1991
Metropolitan Opera Premiere


KÁT'A KABANOVÁ {1}
Janácek-Janácek/Cervinka/Ostrovsky

Kát'a Kabanová..........Gabriela Benacková [Debut]
Kabanicha...............Leonie Rysanek
Varvara.................Susan Quittmeyer
Boris...................Wieslaw Ochman
Tichon..................Allan Glassman
Vána Kudrjas............Peter Straka [Debut]
Kuligin.................Vernon Hartman
Dikoj...................Aage Haugland
Glasa...................Sondra Kelly
Feklusa.................Loretta Di Franco
Passerby................Meredith Derr
Townswoman..............Joyce Olson

Conductor...............Charles Mackerras

Production..............Jonathan Miller [Debut]
Designer................Robert Israel [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Kát'a Kabanová received eight performances this season.

Production gift of The Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Fund for Lincoln Center



Review of Martin Mayer in Opera (UK)

New York. February 25 saw the simultaneous debuts at the METROPOLITAN OPERA of Gabriela Benackova, one of the greatest practising sopranos, "Katya Kabanova," save only "Wozzeck" perhaps the best opera written in the 1920s, Jonathan Miller, a most thoughtful producer, and Robert Israel, the most intelligent American scenic designer. For once, everybody lived up to her or his reputation. Add to that Leonie Rysanek on stage and Charles Mackerras in the pit, and our cup ranneth over. Critics who are normally up the aisle before the curtain hits the stage were still at their seats applauding as an overwhelmed audience, very few of whom had ever heard the work before, summoned the cast back for a sixth curtain call.

"Katya Kabanova" is a rather small-scale work for a house the size of the Met, its lovely tunes soaring but not expanding. A domestic tragedy set in rural Russia, it has less than two hours of music; the Met ran the first two acts together without intermission and brought down the final curtain at 10.10 pm. The production Miller and Israel worked out together was not entirely unlike one by Svoboda I saw some years ago in Zurich: canted stage and evocative, not very realistic structures scattered at the back or stage-right. Perspective lines run up the stage to the back, strengthening the feeling of depth. In the claustrophobic indoors scene, the girls play cards rather than embroidering, justifying in part Kabanicha's distrust of them. The storm scene plays in a ruined church bell-tower dropped into the centre of the stage, real rain falling mistily from the flies. And we see the lady jumping into the Volga rather convincingly from the top of the canted stage.

Everybody was beyond praise. Benackova's voice is pure, virtually without vibrato and absolutely without whine, airy, yet rich in overtones; a unique instrument. She is also a fine, grave actress. Rysanek has been with us for 33 years in New York (she made her debut vice Callas as Lady Macbeth), and she gets steadily better; the lower register is firm and smooth, and that is, of course, what she needed here. Susan Quittmeyer was Varvara, lean and lithe, correctly cast for once: her voice blended marvellously with Benakova's All three tenors were first-class: Allen Glassman as the put-upon husband; Wieslaw Ochman as the cowardly lover; and Peter Straka from Czechoslovakia, another debut, as the free-and-easy boyfriend who will take Varvara away from all this. Aage Haugland was simply wonderful both vocally and dramatically as the besotted merchant. And Mackerras is everyone's first choice as a conductor of Janácek operas.



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