Katya Kabanova reviews

The Mail on Sunday ★★★★★

A fine production of what is arguably Janacek’s greatest opera

“Romaniw invites our sympathy for all the right reasons. Her strength commands attention, but the appalling hopelessness of the people she lives with makes her tragic end inevitable.”

“In the pit, Stephen Barlow is fully on top of the drama and gets the best out of his orchestra.”

“It took 30 years for Katya to arrive in England. Now it’s here, it’s more and more highly regarded. And this excellent production will add to its appeal.”

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The Times ★★★★

The staging at Grange Park, Surrey, matched the intensity of the music, with Natalya Romaniw’s Katya delivering real emotional and vocal power

“Everyone sings with passion, and at the centre is a performance of wonderful emotional and vocal power by Romaniw. She can really ride over Janacek’s full-blooded fortissimos, yet her most telling moments come when she floats beautifully lyrical lines as Katya dreams about a future she will never reach. And her leap into the river is done with such intent that you fear she will be on crutches for the next show.”

“As the perfect foil for her tortured relationship, the playful interplay between Katie Bray’s Varvara and Benjamin Hulett’s Vanya is delightful, and Bray’s scream of pure adolescent frustration when observing Kabanicha’s hounding of Katya is a brilliant invention.”


The Telegraph ★★★★

A spare, tense reading of a deeply affecting score

“Grange Park Opera has added a searingly poignant new staging of the 1921 opera Katya Kabanova, one of the most concentrated and eloquent of Janáček’s works; the bare set proves that these pieces need no complex and elaborate stage set-up, just a deep understanding of the emotions that underpin them. In the hands of one of the most experienced of Janáček directors, David Alden, every twist and turn of this tragic tale is highlighted, against a background of the repressive religious culture of the time.”

“Beautifully captured here is the contrast between the awkwardness of the Boris/Katya relationship, as they edge their way together from the distant opposite sides of the platform along what seem like dangerous sides of a cliff, and the much more instinctive partnership of the young Varvara (a natural, pert Katie Bray) and her lover Vanya (the easy-going Benjamin Hulett).”

“Katya’s love, expressed in a rhapsody of fluctuating lyrical writing which Romaniw captures to perfection, echoes the violent palpitations of her heart.”


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The Guardian ★★★★

Romaniw soars in cogent take on Janáček’s tragedy

“Even given high expectations, Romaniw doesn’t disappoint: her soprano is gloriously full-bodied, incisive enough to soar over the orchestra, and she acts the role as touchingly as she sings.”

“As in Janáček’s Jenufa here in 2017, she is paired with Susan Bullock, who is chilling in the clipped phrases of Kabanicha, the monstrous mother-in-law; she’s almost equalled in grotesquerie by Clive Bayley’s doddery Dikoj, picking his way across the stage with his stick like a giant spider.”

“It’s Katie Bray’s thoroughly modern Varvara who really shines among the supporting cast, singing radiantly and showing us poignantly the kind of woman Katya could have been.”


Bachtrack ★★★★

Alden and Barlow impress in a minimalist Katya Kabanova

“Kátya Kabanová might just contain more gorgeous melodic ideas per minute that any other opera… Stephen Barlow and the Gascoigne Orchestra gave such clarity to each of these textures that the melodies shone in bright and vivid colours, without forgetting to give us plenty of bite for the dramatic moments.”

“Susan Bullock gave a blistering performance as Katya’s evil mother-in-law Kabanicha, her voice as powerful as her imperious stage presence, never shrill, but implacable from start to finish.”

“Benjamin Hulett, as the teacher Kudrjaš, and Katie Bray, as Katya’s adopted sister Varvara, gave us lashings of smooth, lyrical beauty, not least in their gentle interlude by the side of the Volga.”


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Slippedisc ★★★★

The woman dies, the opera thrives

“Natalya Romaniw is overwhelming as Katya, an unconfident woman who grows with her infidelity. Boris, her love interest, is Thomas Atkins. Susan Bullock plays the appalling mother-in-law. All sing in Czech like natives.”

“I have seldom been prouder of my country’s singers.”

“Katya is unmissable.”