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Janacek: Katia Kabanova (Karita Mattila/Madrid 2008/Belohlavek) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Format: Classical
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: French, English, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: All Regions (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Frapod
  • DVD Release Date: 8 Nov. 2010
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0044ZQ8Q2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,885 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

At last, this magical production of Katia, by Robert Carsen, recorded at the Teatro Real de Madrid, in December 2008, and which was hailed unanimously by the critics as almost perfect . The Teatro Real Orchestra gives one of its best performances under maestro Ji í B lohlávek, whose conducting emphasises the passion with delicacy and drama. All the action takes place on a huge body of water which reflects images of extraordinary grace, sculpted by sublime light. The stage is dominated by the extraordinary Karita Mattila in a performance of incredible intensity: the best Katia imaginable for this Janacek masterpiece

Customer Reviews

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I liked Robert Carsen's stage design for the NY Met production of Eugene Onegin, where he employed a large three-sided "light-box" with minimal props, but made use of the lighting and autumnal colours to perfectly complement the tone of Tchaikovsky's dramatic and emotionally turbulent opera. Carsen's Brechtian design for Katia Kabanova at Madrid's Teatro Real in 2008 is similarly austere and emotionally resonant, and again it seems to me to be perfectly complementary for an opera whose storyline has the potential to be melodramatic, yet is served so much better if it is coolly and delicately underplayed.

The emotion is downplayed in this production on almost every front of the theatrical presentation to better let the music and the singing speak for itself. The staging is restricted to boarding that is rearranged by what seems like water-nymphs or drowned lost souls, and rests on a couple of inches of water. The intention is to evoke the presence of the Volga, where the drama takes place in the little town of Kalinov, and emphasise the importance of the location and the significance that water plays throughout. If the concept is a little over-pronounced, it nonetheless proves highly effective, creating a calming impression, occasionally showing ripples and casting reflections on the mirrored background. With the use of lighting - impeccably lit and coloured - it establishes a perfect location that connects with the emotional resonance of the drama, without being too heavy-handed or obvious in the symbolism. It just feels absolutely right and it looks marvellous.
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Four of Janacek's greatest operas were composed after he reached the age of 65 and Katia Kabanova was the first of these four. To a large extent it reflects his well known passion for Kamila Stosslova revealed in the character of Katia, although not in her sad end. The work was first performed in Brno in Janacek's native Moravia in 1921. The action for the work is set, circa 1860, in a small Russian village situated near the river Volga, epitomised by the generous presence of water in this production, in which the cast move around on a series of duck boards laid out in the shape of paths through the water. Even when the action takes place indoors the dwelling is depicted as a roofless platform surrounded by water. Scene changes are performed by a team of young ladies who manage to get themselves very wet in the process.

I can recall having first watched this performance when it was broadcast on the BBC a good many years ago now. Finnish opera star Karita Matttila, here in the role of Katia, was the first winner of the BBC biennial Cardiff Singer of the World competition, which began around 25 years ago. She's perfect for the role – in fact absolutely brilliant, and supported by a superb cast. Janacek's style is to fit his music to both the emotions and the environment, blending it all in with the singing to create a coherent and satisfying whole. Nowhere does he do this better than in this work, which some might well think is his greatest. Not only has Karita Mattila a voice perfect for her role, she also acts it brilliantly, which is something that can also be said for the whole cast.
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This performance is based on a Belgian production from Antwerp / Ghent. In the beginning I found it rather odd but the second time round I enjoyed it much more. I have also compared it with an SD DVD from Saltzburg with Angela Denoke in the title role. Ms Denoke is physically well suited to the role but I found the sets in that performance and somewhat vulgar production not at all to my taste. Once one gets used to all the water this is a better production. The Volga is never absent! In fact I had some difficulty working out how the main cast did not repeatedly fall in. The stage is made up of narrow board walks in a very shallow lake that must require eyes in one's knees! The singing is excellent throughout as is the orchestral playing under their Czech conductor. The upper notes seemed to have a ring now and again but that might just be me.

The sets and color tone are most unusual with a watery haze throughout. I found this a bit over the top and would have welcomed some more color here and there, but it certainly achieves its aim of highlighting the Volga. The director, François Roussillon, is obviously a new garçon on the block and his own company is releasing this Blu-ray. The disc is fine but the packing and booklet are not good at all. The print is too small to read easily and the cover requires a special box that was broken when it arrived. Re-packing is troublesome as one has to photocopy the booklet cover to make it all work.

katya Kabanova is a fantastic opera, one of the finest of the 20th century. This production is well worth a look and Janacek fans should be satisfied despite my reservationa. Roll on Jenufa and the House of the Dead
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96bf9120) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9670c2ac) out of 5 stars Double Whammy! 13 Jan. 2011
By Gio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
How likely can it be that TWO (2) DVDs of an opera by Leos Janacek would be released in the same year, 2010, and that both would be musically excellent, and yet that the two would be so utterly dissimilar in dramatic concept that it makes sense, for a Janacek fan at least, to hear and see both? Well, friends, that's what has happened, and our beloved amazoo-keepers were understandably befuddled by the coincidence. This production, starring Karita Mattila in the title role, became available In Europe months ago but not in the USA. Meanwhile, the other production, starring Angela Denoke at the Salzburg Festival, was available month earlier, and I reviewed it almost immediately. That five-star review got magically posted on this product page. I notified the zookeepers and lo! the glitch has been fixed.

Here's a portion of the review I wrote about the other DVD: In a Janacek opera, it's the orchestra that narrates, that expresses the strongest passions and comments most profoundly on the 'content' of the drama. "Katia Kabanova" is a tragic story of emotional abuse, adultery, betrayal, and suicide. The human drama could scarcely be darker, and yet without a speck of Pucciniesque melodrama. This bleak scenario, nevertheless, is wrapped in a rapturous orchestral 'commentary' that affirms the beauty of passion, the immanence of the Life Force even in cruelty and folly. Janacek's passion for Life swells in all of his music. The five operas of his that you're likely to hear/see are all tragic, all psychologically and intellectually dark, but the music soars above depression. The sheer glory of Life transcends the pain of Living.

That other production stages the opera 'anachronistically' in a Soviet-era housing project; it treats Janacek's love-suicide drama as a social tragedy in a specifically dysfunctional family and community. This production takes the diametrically opposite approach, eliminating even the 'peasant village' setting of Janacek's libretto, and universalizing the themes of tragedy. I sincerely do appreciate both concepts, but I'm almost certain that most audiences will prefer the second, especially since it's beautifully executed.

In this production, the stage is flooded with an inch or two of water, representing both the river that is central to the drama and the fluid beauty of LIfe as it flows past us. Water spirits -- I THINK that's what they are, as well as being dancers and chorus -- slide wooden gangways from configuration to configuration to represent the scenes of the village, and the singers chiefly act their roles on these gangways. Almost all the cast goes barefoot in the shallow water, slithering through it to make shimmering swirls and eddies under the lights. It's all as beautiful as starlight on surf, and above all it frees the audience's imagination to attend to the affect of the music.

Karita Mattila is divine. Whoever sings Katia needs to be divine. Denoke is very fine vocally, in that other production, but Mattila was born to sing this role. All the other musical elements are superb as well, making this one of the very best opera DVDs I've ever heard/watched.

Here's a list of Janacek's nine operas, with their English titles:
Sarka (1887)
The Beginning of a Romance (1894)
Jenufa (1904) - available on 2 DVDs
Osud (1904) - available on CD
The Excusions of Mr. Broucek (1920) - on CD
Katia Kabanova (1921) - on 3 DVDs
The Cunning Little Vixen (1924) - on 4 DVDs
The Makropoulos Case (1926) - on DVD
From the House of the Dead (1927) - on an excellent DVD

One might get the impression that Janacek's day has dawned!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9670c300) out of 5 stars A five star opera 30 Jun. 2011
By Ultrarunner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Janacek (1854-1928) in 1919,at the age of 65, composed in the last ten years of his life, four major operas,and works such as the Sinfonietta and the Glagolitic Mass. These last operas made little headway before the Second World War, apart from Jenufa, which made his reputation in Czechoslovakia and the German speaking world.His preoccupation with Moravian folk music, enriched his music language.

Katya Kabanova was adapted from a Russian play by Janacek. His inspiration for Katya was Puccini's Madam Butterfly and a Mrs Stosslova,38 years younger then him and married,so was he. He met her while on holiday with his wife in 1917.This was a one sided passionate relationship on his part which resulted in over 7OO letters. She was the inspiration for the other three operas. She never understood him or his work. The premiere took place in Brno in November 1921.

The opera takes place in a small Russian village around 1860. Katia is bullied by her mother in law,and has a husband Tichon who is weak. She has an affair with Boris while Tichon is away. She then tells everyone. Boris is sent away to Siberia, where else, filthy swine. Katia(Katya) then commits suicide in the nearby Volga. In case you think this is all very depressing, this opera is Janacek's most lyrical work and has some extremely beautiful music.No wonder Janacek was inspired by Butterfly.This opera has the same effect.

The new edition of this opera has been prepared by the late Australian conductor, Sir Charles Mackerras.He went a long away in promoting Janacek. The Orchestra of the Teatro Real, Madrid, is conducted by Jiri Belohlavek in a very passionate fashion. Ladies be prepared to weep. Men resort to the traditional stiff upper lip. Directed by Robert Carsen. He uses the river Volga,represented by water on the stage. Ladies dressed in white, place planks in various postions, to represent walkways, a house and garden. You may sniff and think, modern rubbish. Far from it. Katia is sung by Karita Mattila. She makes the part real. All the singers and choir are good. The costumes seem to be set in the 1910's. I may be wrong. Minimalist staging with effective back drops all make this a very emotional experience. An extremely wonderful performance and should be in every opera lovers collection.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96680090) out of 5 stars Fluid staging of Janácek's watery opera 19 Jan. 2011
By Keris Nine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
I liked Robert Carsen's stage design for the NY Met production of Eugene Onegin, where he employed a large three-sided "light-box" with minimal props, but made use of the lighting and autumnal colours to perfectly complement the tone of Tchaikovsky's dramatic and emotionally turbulent opera. Carsen's Brechtian design for Katia Kabanova at Madrid's Teatro Real in 2008 is similarly austere and emotionally resonant, and again it seems to me to be perfectly complementary for an opera whose storyline has the potential to be melodramatic, yet is served so much better if it is coolly and delicately underplayed.

The emotion is downplayed in this production on almost every front of the theatrical presentation to better let the music and the singing speak for itself. The staging is restricted to boarding that is rearranged by what seems like water-nymphs or drowned lost souls, and rests on a couple of inches of water. The intention is to evoke the presence of the Volga, where the drama takes place in the little town of Kalinov, and emphasise the importance of the location and the significance that water plays throughout. If the concept is a little over-pronounced, it nonetheless proves highly effective, creating a calming impression, occasionally showing ripples and casting reflections on the mirrored background. With the use of lighting - impeccably lit and coloured - it establishes a perfect location that connects with the emotional resonance of the drama, without being too heavy-handed or obvious in the symbolism. It just feels absolutely right and it looks marvellous.

The reason why it feels perfect, is that it supports the important elements of the performance without imposing a false presence that could either overstate or take away from the intent of Janácek's score - wonderfully played by the Teatro Real Orchestra conducted by Jiri Belohlavek - or indeed from the fine performances and singing. Katya is a complex character who undergoes some quite brutal treatment and yet remains despite of it all in thrall to her interior life, and it's all too easy to highlight the grimness of the external drama at the expense of the beauty of the person inside. The only other staging I've seen of the opera placed emphasis - quite effectively, as it happens - on a recreation of a grim East European tenement block - but the concept here seems much more imaginative and in tune with the tone of the music. The contrast in Katya's personality can also lead to over-emphasis bordering on madness, but Karita Mattila finds a perfect balance here in her acting performance and in her singing, exuberant in the right places, despairing in others, but reserved and internalised where necessary at the key moments.

Everything is pretty much as it should be in terms of the technical specifications of the FRA Blu-ray disc. A 1080i encode, presented in 16:9 widescreen, the image looks slightly soft, perhaps on account of the low lighting, but it fully captures the tones of the subdued but limpid lighting. The soundtrack comes with the standard PCM and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 mixes, both of which perform well. The surround mix disperses the orchestration effectively, but on an empty stage the singing can seem a little echoing at times. It's never less than powerful however. Really, High Definition and opera is a match made in heaven and this disc shows why. The Blu-ray includes a 24-minute interview with Robert Carsen and Jiri Belohlavek. In the spirit of the production, the booklet includes a detailed synopsis that doubles as a fine interpretative essay on the opera.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9670c588) out of 5 stars The water surface of Katia Kabanova. 22 Sept. 2011
By Ali Hassan AYACHE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Leos Janacek composed a significant part of his work in the last two decades. A fulminating love with a young, then 25 years old, did the inspiration of the Czech composer emerge so overwhelming. The Smart Little Vixen, The House of the Dead, The case Makropolus and Katia Kabanova belong to this period of great inspiration. The three-act opera Katia Kabanova is, along with Jenufa, the masterpiece of the composer. Inspiration to the high threshold, which represents the pain of human love.
Very personal song, written with short, repetitive phrases that do not conform to any genre. Janacek's operas have great arias and recitatives with characters rather simple, humble and some complex. The work is important in his music, which shows the personality of the characters. The orchestra narrates the action and it expresses profound emotions. The reports are supporting. Janacek constructs melodic lines appropriate to each character in his operas, music that reflects the feeling and character. In a unique beauty and lyricism that makes you cry the coldest of macho.
The recording released on DVD and Blu-Ray and the label Framus held at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2009, has all the beauty of music by Janacek and more. A deep reading, novel and unique director Robert Carsen. The water surface present in all the stage and throughout the presentation is the main character of the events. Symbol of the Volga River, around it goes all the drama. Everything is Minin, with the absence of scenery and a light gradient in the background, which alternate colors in accordance with the unfolding of the piece; the backlight is mixed with a mirror that reflects the water scenes in a beautiful effect visual. An interpretation unforgettable, flawless and unity throughout the presentation. Modern opera of the highest quality, differentiated reading with intelligence following the libretto.
The singers do not put your feet in the water: the dancers, nymphs or true lost souls of the Volga, shaping pieces of wood as the course of action. End up being part of the scenery. More chilling effect. Carsen often opts for speech over singing. The Philip Hirsch presented Rigoletto at the Teatro Municipal of São Paulo in 2011 used this same feature of the water surface in the third act. Must be pure coincidence.
Karita Mattila is a balance between singing and acting, in love and runs away from the tacky Katia is a seductive and melancholy. His voice has supreme issue, weight and a vibrant tone. One of the best performances of soprano video. The other soloists are in a state of grace: all interpret and assume their roles with realism and sing with consistency and safety.
The Orchestra of the Teatro Real Madrid plays with passion and enthusiasm, seems familiar with the difficult passages of lyrical Janacek. The governing Jirí Behlolávek is powerful and stable. Understand the pervasive music of the composer and transposes into the theater. The digital image on Blu-Ray is of great quality, and interviews with the director and the conductor further enhance the ideas contained in the function. One of the best releases of 2011.

Ali Hassan Ayache

Portugeses:

DVD CRÍTICA: O Espelho d'água de Katia kabanova.

Leos Janácek compôs parte expressiva de sua obra nas duas últimas décadas de vida. Um amor fulminante por uma jovem, de então 25 anos de idade, fez a inspiração do compositor tcheco aflorar de maneira arrebatadora. A Raposinha Esperta, Da casa dos Mortos, O caso Makropolus e Katia Kabanova pertencem a esse período de grande inspiração. A ópera em três atos Katia Kabanova é, ao lado de Jenufa, a obra prima do compositor. Inspiração elevada ao limite, que representa a dor apaixonada do ser humano.
Música extremamente pessoal, composta com frases curtas e repetitivas que não se adaptam a nenhum gênero. Óperas de Janácek não têm grandes árias e sim recitativos com personagens simples, humildes e alguns deles complexos. O importante em sua obra é a música, que mostra a personalidade dos personagens. A orquestra narra a ação, e nela expressa profundas emoções. As falas são coadjuvantes. Janácek constrói linhas melódicas adequadas a cada personagem de suas óperas, música que reflete o sentimento e o caráter . De beleza única e um lirismo que faz chorar o mais frio dos machistas.
A gravação lançada em DVD e Blu-Ray pelo selo FraMusica e realizada no Teatro Real de Madri, em 2009, tem toda beleza da música de Janácek e muito mais. Uma leitura profunda, inédita e singular do diretor Robert Carsen. O espelho d'água presente em todo o palco e durante toda a apresentação é o personagem principal dos eventos. Símbolo máximo do Rio Volga, em torno dele se passa todo o drama. Tudo é mínino, com a ausência de cenário e uma luz em degradê no fundo do palco, onde cores se alternam de acordo com o desenrolar da peça; a luz do fundo se mescla a um espelho que reflete as cenas aquáticas, em um lindo efeito visual. Uma interpretação inesquecível, irretocável e com unidade durante toda a apresentação. Ópera moderna da melhor qualidade, leitura diferenciada com inteligência que segue o libreto.
Os cantores não colocam os pés na água: as dançarinas, verdadeiras ninfas ou almas perdidas do rio Volga, moldam peças de madeira conforme o desenrolar da ação. Acabam sendo parte do cenário. Mais um efeito de arrepiar. Carsen muitas vezes opta pela expressão em detrimento do canto. O Rigoletto de Felipe Hirsch apresentado no Teatro Municipal de São Paulo em 2011 utilizou esse mesmo recurso do espelho d'água no terceiro ato. Deve ser pura coincidência.
Karita Mattila encontra um equilíbrio entre canto e encenação, foge da cafonice apaixonada e faz uma Katia sedutora e melancólica. Sua voz tem sublime emissão, peso e um timbre pujante. Uma das melhores atuações desse soprano em vídeo. Os demais solistas estão em estado de graça: todos interpretam e assumem seus papéis com realismo e cantam com consistência e segurança.
A Orquestra do Teatro Real de Madri toca com paixão e entusiasmo, parece familiarizada com as difíceis passagens líricas de Janácek. A regência de Jirí Behlolávek é possante e estável. Entende a penetrante música do compositor e a transpõe no teatro. A imagem digital em Blu-Ray é de grande qualidade, e as entrevistas com o diretor e o regente realçam ainda mais as ideias contidas na função. Um dos melhores lançamentos de 2011.

Ali Hassan Ayache
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9670c3c0) out of 5 stars Great staging and music 3 April 2011
By A. Lupu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a very concise opera as operas go, less than two hours. Every single word and note is there for a reason, thus a minimalistic staging is a very appropriate one. The stage is on water which, in addition to the symbolism of the Volga River, creates beautiful effects and images. The reflections on the water and the waves on it fill the stage without having to have anything else. This is a case were a great filming director created images and effects that are much better than what you could see in the theater, mostly by using different view angles and different reflections. Bluray serves this staging perfectly giving striking details of the waves on the water. Janacek music is just beautiful, helping express the characters internal thoughts and feelings. Katia's music couldn't be better created to makes us feel her struggle with herself and the sincere and pure qualities of her soul. Mattila does and incredible good job with her voice. Her acting is sometimes hindered by her fear to slip on the wet floor showing some hesitation in her movements. The cast is good and into their characters. A modern interpretation that enhances the composer's work. Strongly recommended
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