Janacek’s opera of doomed pas­sion not to be missed

The New Zealand Herald - - PUZZLES AND HOROSCOPES -

There are no oper­atic frills or flam­boy­ance in New Zealand Opera’s Katya Ka­banova. Janacek’s 1921 master­piece has been de­scribed as of­fer­ing no re­demp­tion or hope, yet un­der­pin­ning the bleak­ness is a cer­tain sense of cathar­sis.

This is a tale of small-town frus­tra­tion, with a hero­ine trapped in a love­less mar­riage, break­ing free from un­bear­able do­mes­tic stric­tures di­rec­tor Pa­trick Nolan has evoked the spir­i­tual en­nui of Hol­ly­wood film noir.

The bril­liant Mar­garet Med­lyn is the im­pe­ri­ous ma­tri­arch, locked in her own chill­ing win­ter of the soul.

She ruth­lessly deals with her weak son, beau­ti­fully char­ac­terised by Andrew Glover, and Conal Coad, the hus­band who has sought refuge in blus­ter and booze af­ter decades of her tyranny. The doomed Katya is caught up in their web and her strug­gle to emerge is charted by Janacek with a sub­tlety that Dina Kuznetsova un­der­stands to the last in­flec­tion.

Auck­land Phil­har­mo­nia Orches­tra re­sponds splen­didly to the com­poser’s of­ten ec­cen­tric de­mands un­der Wyn Davies.

Cast­ing is uni­formly ex­cel­lent, from Emma Slo­man and James Ben­jamin Rodgers’ play­ful ban­ter­ing by the picket fence, to Hay­ley Su­gars and Rodgers, who rep­re­sent a touch­stone of nor­malcy in fraught sur­round­ings.sur­round­ings.

This coura­geous pro­duc­tion, pre­miered in Seat­tle this year, is a ma­jor achieve­ment in our own oper­atic his­tory.

Don’t miss it.

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