Janáček: Káťa Kabanová - Rattle
LSO Live LSO0889 (2 discs)
Classical - Opera
Janáček: Katya Kabanova
Amanda Majeski (Katya)
Simon O'Neill (Boris)
Katarina Dalayman (Kabanicha)
Andrew Staples (Tichon)
Ladislav Elgr (Kudrjash)
Magdalena Kožená (Varvara)
Pavlo Hunka (Dikoy)
Claire Barnett-Jones (Glasha & Feklusha)
Lukáš Zeman (Kuligin)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
The second release in LSO Live's cycle of Janáček opera recordings, "Katya Kabanova" tells a story of love, entrapment and, ultimately, tragedy. The album's cast includes the superb tenor Simon O'Neill and, appearing in one of her signature roles as seen at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Amanda Majeski as Katya.
"Majeski gives such heartfelt commitment to the role of Katya that one worries how she can come back down from the emotional peaks and precipices that she scales." – Opera Today
Katya is young, sensitive and desperate for love. But trapped in a remote country village with a bored husband and his snobbish family, she has no way out, until a summer thunderstorm changes everything. Uncompromisingly honest, and pulsing with intensely human emotion, the story of Katya Kabanova is written in music that cuts straight to the chase. The LSO's concert stagings of classic operas always make headlines: and this one was no different. Enjoy this recording, captured live at the Barbican in January 2023 under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.
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Review by Graham Williams - February 15, 2024
The music of Janáček has been one of the central pillars in Sir Simon Rattle’s long career, and his profound understanding of the composer’s unique style shines through in this riveting interpretation of the emotionally searing opera Katya Kabanova. Rattle’s account of the opera, enshrined on these two SACD discs from LSO Live, is taken from two concert performances of the work given on the 11th and 13th of January 2023 at the Barbican Hall, London.
Rattle has assembled an exceptional international cast, who deliver a flawless performance of the opera in its original Czech language. American soprano Amanda Majeski, reprising her remarkable 2019 portrayal at the Royal Opera House, commands the role of Katya with considerable artistry. Her rich and powerful voice skilfully navigates the character's tumultuous emotional journey through guilt, fear and eventual despair that her character experiences as the opera unfolds. New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill adds eloquence to the character of Boris, showcasing his 'heldentenor' vocal prowess with perfect control in both forceful and lyrical passages. Magdalena Kožená is a characterful Varvara, Tichon’s foster-sister, while Katarina Dalayman, formally a soprano and now a mezzo, delivers a chilling performance as the formidable Kabanicha. Every role, no matter how minor, is portrayed with excellence.
Both the sensitivity and sweep of Rattle’s conducting are evident immediately in the poignant orchestral introduction with which the work begins. The conductor’s control of the ebb and flow of the musical argument is unwavering as is the meticulous care with which he moulds the ravishing string lines. Throughout the opera one’s ear is drawn to the superfine playing that Rattle elicits from the London Symphony Orchestra who are in superb form.
The opera, spanning two hybrid SACDs, is beautifully packaged, with the first disc featuring Act 1 and the second housing Acts 2 and 3. A comprehensive 115-page booklet includes the English/Czech libretto, essential for this intricate drama, along with concert performance photographs and artist biographies. Nigel Simeone’s insightful program notes and a synopsis enrich the listener's understanding of the story.
The Barbican hall is often criticised for the dryness of its acoustic, but this is not the case here. The sound quality of the 5.1 multi-channel DSD 256fs recording made by the Classic Sound recording team has great clarity and more than a modicum of warmth, while the fine balance between voices and orchestra ensures every detail of Janáček’s often idiosyncratic orchestration remains audible.
In all aspects, this recording stands out as a vivid and compelling rendition of one of Janáček’s masterpieces. Devotees of the composer will find this performance a must-listen, capturing the essence of one of his finest operatic works.
Recommended without reservation.
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