Review of Seattle Opera’s production of Katya Kabanova
Tragedy can happen anywhere. That’s why the 1950s setting in the United States looked comfortably appropriate in Seattle Opera’s production of “Katya Kabanova.” Designed by Genevieve Blanchett and Mark Howett, the white picket fence, the expansive living room of a ranch house, and the video projections of wild rivers updated the setting from a village near the Volga River in the 1860s to a small town that could easily have been in the Pacific Northwest. The powerfully expressive singing of Melody Moore in the title role and evocative playing by the orchestra under Oliver von Dohnányi highlighted the performance on opening night (February 25) at McCaw Hall.
The Katya that Moore created had a depth of character that anchored the story. Her singing in the final scene revealed a tormented soul that wanted to connect with others. Joseph Dennis made for a dashing Boris, but his lovely tenor barely had enough volume to be heard above the orchestra. Nicky Spence’s Tichon, on the other hand, riveted the audience with his volcanic bursts of frustration.
Melody Moore (Katya). Philip Newton photo
Victoria Livengood excelled in every which way as Kabanicha, the evil mother-in-law, bully everyone around her with demands and proclamations. When yells at Katya that Tichon “is her husband, not her lover,” that pretty much summed up her view of marital relations. As Dikoj, Stefan Szkafarowsky spouted off like a crusty old teakettle – full of abrasiveness and a smidgeon of charm.
Victoria Livengood (Kabanicha). Philip Newton photo
Maya Lahyani played the role of Varvara with a light-hearted and free-spirited nature that provided some relief from the heaviness of Katya’s situation. It also meshed wonderfully with Joshua Kohl’s Kudrjas. The duets that featured the two lovers (Varvara and Kudrjas) were exceptionally well sung.
Patrick Nolan provided crisp stage directions that were easy to follow. One of the most symbolic moments came at the end when Katya fell backwards into the river. It seemed to be an acceptance of her fate.
Under the baton of Dohnányi, the orchestra sounded fantastic, delivering sounds that marvelously matched the text and expressed the emotional states of the characters. Lush moments, angry outbursts, ominous moods… the musicians terrifically conveyed it all. There was a solitary passage in the final scene when the clarinet (Benjamin Lulich) deftly conveyed what seemed to be the essence of Katya wandering in the woods. It was truly magical.
To subscribe to Facts and Arts' weekly newsletter, please click here.