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Review: The woman dies, the opera thrives

Review: The woman dies, the opera thrives
Review: The woman dies, the opera thrives

The plot of Katya Kabanova is devastatingly simple. Older husband goes away on business, telling his loyal young wife to keep her eyes off a fanciable young man. The ivevitable happens. Husband returns. Katya jumps into the river.

The difference between Janacek’s opera and so many others is that the music places us irresistibly on the transgressor’s side. Janacek loves Katya. So do we. Despite her fling, we want her to he happy, not dead.

David Alden’s production at Grange Park requires extra audience tissues.

The cast is all-British. Natalya Romaniw is overwhelming as Katya, an unconfident woman who grows with her infidelity. Boris, her love interest, is Thomas Atkins*. Susan Bullock plays the appalling mother-in-law. All sing in Czech like natives. If any other language had been required they would have pronounced it with aplomb.

I have seldom been prouder of my country’s siongers, the more so as their opportunities shrink with the demolition of English and Welsh National Operas and the myopic determination of Covent Garden to depend almost entirely on foreigners.

Grange Park is a start-up summer festival by Wasfi Kani. Some of its musicians have worked with her for thirty years. Among a plethora of countryhouse festivals, it is the one that feels most like a family.

Katya is unmissable. There is another performance next Friday.

photo: Marc Brenner/Grange Park

* Turns out he’s from New Zealand.

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