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Kabanová, Katya


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(Janáček: Katya Kabanová). Sop. Wife of Tichon and daughter‐in‐law of the Kabanicha Her marriage is not the happy state she hoped it would be—her husband is weak and dominated by his mother, who sneers at her love for her husband and denounces Katya—and Tichon—for their lack of respect for her. Katya has noticed Boris, nephew of Dikoj (a friend of her mother‐in‐law) watching her as she walks home from church. Alone with Varvara, the Kabanicha's foster‐daughter, she confesses her unhappiness, her lack of freedom—as a child she liked to be free as a bird—and her dreams, in which she feels as if she is being embraced and wants to give in to her feelings for another man. Tichon is sent away on business by his mother and before he goes is obliged to issue instructions to his wife about her behaviour in his absence, an episode Katya finds humiliating. Varvara encourages her to meet Boris, while she herself meets her own lover, and Katya and Boris give in to their feelings and admit their love for each other.

Afterwards Katya is totally guilt‐ridden, her mind almost unhinged. When Tichon returns, she confesses her unfaithfulness to him and his mother, naming Boris to them. She then flees from the family home and runs down to the Volga. She hears her husband calling her, but Boris appears and the two lovers console each other, at the same time acknowledging that they must say goodbye. Alone, she cannot face the thought of the future, under the eye of the tyrannical Kabanicha. There is no alternative—she jumps into the river. Aria: Proč se tak chovají? (‘Why do they behave like this?’).

Among famous singers of the role are Rose Pauly, Amy Shuard (the first Katya in England in 1951 and the first in New York in 1961), Libuše Domanínská (an acclaimed Jenůfa), Helena Tattermuchová, Ludmilla Dvořákova, Elisabeth Söderström, Elena Prokina, Eva Jenis, Nancy Gustafson, and Amanda Roocroft. Janáček freely admitted his love and admir‐ation for Madama Butterfly, and in the scene where Boris describes to Váňa his love for Katya, the music is clearly influenced by Butterfly's first entrance. Katya and Boris, Varvara and Váňa, during their clandestine meeting, sing a ‘double duet’ reminiscent of the one between Mimì and Rodolfo, Musetta and Marcello in Act 3 of Puccini's La bohème. Created (1921) by Marie Veselá.

Subjects: Opera.


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