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Opera Review: Kát’a Kabanová delivers a truly joined-up performance

Beware the curtain-twitchers: Amanda Majeski (left) as Kát’a and Susan Bickley as sadistic matriarch Kabanicha PICTURES: CLIVE BARDA/ROH


Kát’a Kabanová

Royal Opera House ★★★★☆

EVERY so often a singer comes along who reminds you just how shattering a truly joined-up performance of an operatic tragedy can be.

American soprano Amanda Majeski tugs on every heart-string, and then some, in her debut as the beautiful and naïve Kát’a, a woman whose life is hemmed in by petty bullies and provincial dullards.

Adultery with weak-willed Boris (played by Pavel Cernoch) is not the answer to Kata’s problems

When she confesses, during the height of a storm, to adultery, and then slowly comes to see that self-slaughter is the only way out of her torment, Majeski makes you believe that you’re truly witnessing a human soul at the very edge of endurance, watching the threads of life snapping. It’s almost enough to make you forget that she’s singing too — and when you hear a voice of such variety, beauty and sparkling clarity as hers, that’s one helluva big ‘almost’.

She’s supported by a fine ensemble. Sweet-voiced tenor Pavel Černoch makes something touchingly sympathetic of the role of her weak-willed lover Boris, and Susan Bickley is on stonking form too as the sadistic matriarch Kabanicha who makes Kát’a’s life hell.

Desperate to escape: Kát’a tries to run

Director Richard Jones sets his new production of Janáček’s melodious opera in late 1960s suburbia — think skin-crawling claustrophobia and curtain-twitching — and presents the simple narrative with devastating emotional clarity. It’s a pity the climactic suicide of the heroine doesn’t quite pack the punch it should, and that Edward Gardner’s conducting is solid rather than inspirational. But with a central performance of such five-star cathartic intensity as Amanda Majeski’s, these drawbacks are minor.

There are only two more performances, on February 21 and 26. Go — you really won’t be disappointed.

Until February 26.