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.
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.
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. roh.org.uk