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Janacek: Kat'a Kabanova -- Glyndebourne [DVD] 
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Music by - Leos Janacek
Text after - A. N. Ostrovsky's "The Storm"
Translated by - Vincenc Cervinka
The Glyndebourne Chorus - Chorus Director: Ivor Bolton
The London Philharmonic - Conductor: Andrew Davis
Kát'a Kabanová, Janácek's 1921 tragedy, is proof if any were needed that tales of personal oppression and turmoil will always make fine raw material for opera composers. Janácek took Ostrovsky's tumultuous drama of infidelity , The Storm, and created a compelling piece in which his music heightens the relationship between the troubled landscape of Kát'a's inner mind and the elements doing battle outside.
In 1988, this Glyndebourne Festival production successfully distilled the heroine's wretched journey from put-upon wife and daughter-in-law to suicide via the ecstasy of a forbidden love affair into 100 minutes of intensely emotional operatic drama. At its heart, Janácek's unique tonal score underlines a powerful, almost naturalistic dialogue and exposes the impact of Kát'a's experiences on her escalating self-destruction. Felicity Palmer's Kabanicha--the mother-in-law from hell and the real instrument of Kát'a's downfall--is curiously remote and muted rather than the domineering figure of fear that we might expect. But the singing, particularly by Nancy Gustafson (tremendously affecting and emotionally convincing in the title role) and Ryland Davies as Kát'a's weak husband Tichon, is outstanding. Gustafson's performance alone makes this essential viewing for anybody with a passion for the great modern soprano roles.
On the DVD: Sadly the only additional features are trailers for Seven Gates of Jersualem and The Damnation of Faust. The sound quality (PCM stereo) is more than fair, but inevitably the film of the production is constrained by the design: the stylised set is either very light or very dark and we don't get as close as we'd like to the characters in what is, after all, a disturbingly intimate piece. Arthaus Musik's booklet meets the expected high standards of information and background. --Piers Ford
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, the acting in this production often seemed unnatural and was characterised by somewhat exaggerated gestures and expressions. Perhaps this was OK on stage, but at times looks a bit odd on the DVD.
The set cleverly managed to be both austere and vivid all at once and yet it left me undecided as to whether this was nicely appropriate for the plot or just overpowering and slightly distracting. The set further contradicted itself in terms of the period that it suggested. Was it ancient and fairytale-like or ultra modern? Perhaps Hoheisel was aiming for `timeless'. Interestingly, the costumes by the same designer were non-descript compared with the set, leading to a slight feeling of disarray.
Overall though, I think this is worth watching and it's generally an authoritative performance of a fantastic opera.