Tuesday, February 26, 2002

[2/26/2012] Musical storms, part 4 (continued): Janáček, "Kátya Kabanová"


Karita Mattila as Kátya in Chicago

The plot of the opera is way too intricate to go into here; Wikipedia has a useful synopsis. For our purposes I hope it will suffice to note that Kátya is another of those people all too common in Janáček operas who are trapped by their circumstances, and with no way out of their hopeless situation make a misstep from which there will be no coming back. In her case, she has cheated on her not-much-of-a-husband. The interaction of her conscience and this violent storm produces devastating results.

First we have an intimation of the storm to come.

JANÁČEK: Kátya Kabanová: Act III, opening scene
A ruined building with colonnades and vaulted ceilings around it grass and bushes. Through the arches, view of the Volga and its bank. Late afternoon on a dull day with rain clouds.

KULIGIN: The first drops!
VÁŇA: There's a storm coming!
KULIGIN: Lucky there's somewhere to take shelter!
VÁŇA: What a crowd on the promenade here!
KULIGIN: Looks as if everyone will be piling in!
[Passersby come running in from the rain.]
VÁŇA: These merchants, dressed up to the nines!
KULIGIN: Look at this! Must have been paintings on the walls!
You can still see what they were, here and there. [Inspects the walls.]
VÁŇA: The place was burnt out.
KULIGIN: This one must be Gehenna -- all the fires of Hell!
VÁŇA: They never repaired the building afterwards.
KULIGIN: It shows all sorts of people dropping down into it.
VÁŇA: That's the way it is, my friend!
KULIGIN: People of every rank!
VÁŇA: That's it -- you've got the idea.
KULIGIN: Even blackamoors too!
VÁŇA: Right you are! Blackamoors and all!
[DIKOJ enters. All the otherws make obeisance.]
DIKOJ: I'm wet through!
VÁŇA: Savjol Prokofjič!
DIKOJ : Get away from me! Move along sharp!
Don't crawl over me, boy!
I may not even want to speak to you!
Poking your snout in other people's conversation!
VÁŇA: We get a lot of storms in these parts.
DIKOJ : Piffle!
VÁŇA: No lightning conductors!
DIKOJ : Piffle!
What are these conductors of yours anyway?
VÁŇA: Made of steel.
DIKOJ : Go on.
VÁŇA: Steel rods.
DIKOJ : I see, rods.
VÁŇA [explaining with gestures]: You let them down into the ground.
DIKOJ : Then what? Then what?
VÁŇA: That's all!
DIKOJ [rolling his sleeves up menacingly]: And what exactly is a storm in your theory?
VÁŇA: Electricity!
DIKOJ [stamping his foot]: Electricity? Electricity my foot!
Look at him! Are you telling me he isn't a swindler?
Storms are punishment, sent to us
to make us realize the power of the Almighty!
And you propose to put up rods and
skewers and things to protect us from that?!
What are you? Some heathen Tartar, are you?
Own up! A Tartar?
VÁŇA: Savjol Prokofjič! Your worship!
Děržavin writes:
"Though mankind's body turn to dust,
his mind has quelled the thunder!"
DIKOJ : You heard what he said, gentlemen?
Arrest him! One of these phony peasants!
[Turning to the bystanders] Damn you people, you'd provoke a man into sin! [To Vaňa] Has the rain stopped?
VÁŇA: Apparently.
DIKOJ : "Apparently"!
Go and have a look!
"Apparently," he says!
[DIKOJ walks out of the building, the rest following.]
VÁŇA [outside]: It's stopped.

Jaroslav Souček (b), Kuligin; Zdeněk Švehla (t), Váňa; Dalibor Jedlička (bs), Dikoj; Vienna Philharmonic, Charles Mackerras, cond. Decca, recorded December 1976

Rudolf Jedlička (b), Kuligin; Viktor Koči (t), Vanya; Zdeněk Kroupa (bs), Dikoj; Prague National Theater Orchestra, Jaroslav Krombholc, cond. Supraphon, recorded 1959

Just a moment later, all hell breaks loose.

JANÁČEK: Kátya Kabanová: Act III, storm scene
The setting is the same as above, just a minute or so later. Distant thunder.

KÁTYA [rushing in, taking VARVARA's hand and gripping it frenziedly]: Oh, Varvara!
It's going to kill me!
A WOMAN FROM THE CROWD: There's some woman here scared to death.
VARVARA [to KÁTYA]: Enough of that, already!
[basses] When judgment is passed, there's no escape!
[tenors] Isn't she gorgeous?
VARVARA: Pull yourself together!
KÁTYA: I can't!
VARVARA: Be yourself again!
KÁTYA: My heart aches so!
VÁŇA [with BORIS, backstage of him]: What are you afraid of, may I ask?
CHORUS: Isn't she gorgeous?
VÁŇA: Every flower of the field rejoices,
and you hide yourself away?
KÁTYA [seeing BORIS]: God, what does he want here?
[Leans toward VARVARA and sobs]
Isn't he satisfied yet?
Isn't it enough to see what I am going through?
VARVARA: Hush now, kneel down and pray a little.
DIKOJ [to KABANICHA, pointing at KÁTYA]:
What sins can she have on her mind worth mentioning?
KABANICHA: There's no fathoming other people's souls.
KÁTYA [suddenly falling to her knees]: Mama! Tichon!
I have sinned before God and before you two!
I am a sinful woman!
Did I not swear on my oath to you
that I would not even glance at another man
whilst you were gone, Tichon?
And do you know what wickedness
I did without you? On the very first night . . .
TICHON: Stop, there's no need for this!
VARVARA: She doesn't know what she's saying.
KÁTYA: . . . I ran out of the house . . .
KABANICHA: No. Speak up, speak up, once you've started!
KÁTYA: . . . and every night, ten nights, I dallied with him.
KABANICHA: With whom?
DIKOJ: With whom?
KABANICHA: With whom?
VARVARA : You can tell she's lying -- she doesn't know what she's saying.
KÁTYA: With Boris Grigorjič!
[She falls senseless into her husband's arms.]
KABANICHA: My son, it's turned out as I said.
TICHON: Katěrina!
[KÁTYA tears herself away and rushes off into the storm. The rest run in all directions.]

Elisabeth Söderström (s), Kátya Kabanová; Libuše Márová (s), Varvara; Zdeněk Švehla (t), Váňa; Dalibor Jedlička (bs), Dikoj; Nadežda Kniplová (s), Kabanicha; Vladimir Krejčik (t), Tichon; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Charles Mackerras, cond. Decca, recorded December 1976

Drahomira Tikalová (s), Kátya Kabanová; Ivana Mixová (s), Varvara; Viktor Koči (t), Váňa; Zdeněk Kroupa (bs), Dikoj; Ludmilla Komancová (s), Kabanicha; Bohumir Vich (t), Tichon; Prague National Theater Chorus and Orchestra, Jaroslav Krombholc, cond. Supraphon, recorded 1959



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