I do prefer Jenufa and The Cunning Little Vixen for Janacek's operas- as clichéd as that may sound- but Katia Kabanova is very close behind, still having wonderful music and a moving story. This production from Robert Carsen is terrific, much more preferable to the Glyndebourne production with Nancy Gustafson. The crowd scenes in Act 3 do seem a little too confused and Dalia Schaechter's Kabanicha despite being well sung(her strong point being her low register) is not ominous or commanding enough, then again I may be biased after seeing and hearing Felicity Palmer do the role so well. However, the costumes and sets while minimalist are very striking especially the idea of the reflecting water, and the stage direction from Carsen is imaginative and always arresting. The image of Katia using the water ripples to send a kiss to Boris has stayed with me for a while and still is fresh in my mind. On top of what is going on on screen, there are excellent musical values. The orchestra play with a beautiful sound and elegant phrasing, and while one doesn't forget Charles Mackerras Jiří Bělohlávek's conducting is very good, not always tight but the sonority of sound and musicianship are clearly evident. Apart from Schaechter, the performances don't disappoint. Karita Mattila totally inhabits the title role, convincing both as girlish and intense, and she has a beautiful timbre that does have a sense of line for the sometimes fractured word setting. Natascha Petrinsky's Vavara has demeanour and charm, and while not quite youthful enough from a vocal standpoint I like her dark timbre and think it does contrast quite nicely with Mattila's. Gordon Gitez is charming, and Miroslav Dvorsky while not embodying the role sings Boris very well indeed. In conclusion, a beautifully sung and generally terrific production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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