Kát’a Kabanová, Opera by Leoš Janáček
At the time of Kát’a Kabanová’s premiere (23 November 1921 at Brno’s National Theatre), its composer Leoš Janáček was 67 years old – and madly in love. To show his feelings towards Kamila Strösslová, a married woman nearly 40 years his junior, he created a number of pieces of music, including this dramatic opera in three acts. While the flame between the two never burned as bright as the composer hoped, it inspired him to compose some of his most popular works. Teatro Costanzi in Rome now stages Kát’a Kabanová, Janáček’s first mature opera and a love-filled drama that boils with the passion of the Slavs.
Janáček joined forces with librettist Vincenc Červinka to adapt The Storm, a play by Alexander Ostrovsky, for the opera stage. The Russian playwright’s incisive social criticism of the merchant class follows the slow decline of the marriage between Tichon, a prudish and inattentive husband, and Kat’a, an emotional young woman yearning for true love. She finds that in Boris, a friend of the family who reciprocates her feelings. Much like a thunderstorm in summer, their affair explodes in their hearts suddenly and threatens to lay waste to everything in its path.
As the opera’s dedication reveals, Janáček moulded the lead character of Kat’a after his flame Kamila Strösslová. In hopes of her requited love, the composer produced an ecstatic and emotional score, full of Moravian musical references as was his style. Even though his feelings were largely unreciprocated, in the framework of Kat’a Kabanová, Janáček allowed himself to experience the thrill and the passion of the romance that he so wished to have. Many decades later, his opera retains the emotional charge and profound obsession of his broken heart, and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma’s production lets the fast-paced and all-consuming action take audiences by storm.