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Cat. No. CHAN 3145(2) Price: £18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3145 - Janacek: Katya Kabanova
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Audio Sample

Available From: 01 October 2007
Janácek wrote that Katya Kabanova, his sixth opera, was ‘one of my most tender works’, and his score contrasts extreme beauty with fateful oppression to wonderful emotional and passionate effect. Katya was partly inspired by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, but perhaps more significantly by the young Kamila Stösslová with whom Janácek had become infatuated. He seemed to model his portrait of Katya on Kamila and in fact dedicated the opera to her. The tragic libretto portrays a woman driven to despair and suicide by her husband and monstrous mother-in-law. The result is a deeply moving, intensely lyrical work, as engaging in the beauty of the vocal and orchestral writing as in its story – which also revealed the tragedy of Slavic provincial life, of which Janácek was only too well aware: ‘There is much sadness and Slav tenderness and depth of feeling in it. May I find the right way to express it with equal intensity’, wrote Janácek on The Storm, the Ostrovsky play that was his source for Katya Kabanova.

Katya Kabanova is performed here with Cheryl Barker as Katya reprising her performance in the 2004 Welsh National Opera production. Jane Henschel sings the chief persecutor, Kabanicha, Robert Brubaker is Katya’s lover, Boris, while the Chorus and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera are conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Cheryl Barker is well known for her roles in Janácek operas and Robert Brubaker performs Boris on a regular basis. Carlo Rizzi is a conductor at The Metropolitan Opera, New York, The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Opéra national de Paris – Bastille, Zurich Opera and at Teatro alla Scala in his home town Milan. This is his debut on Chandos.

This is the latest in the Peter Moores opera in English series, with Cheryl Barker giving a moving and beautifully sung performance as the adorable and tragic Katya, racked with guilt and tormented by emotional repression, surely Janácek’s greatest female creation (and I haven’t forgotten Jenufa). Robert Brubaker is in excellent voice as her lover, the hapless Boris. Jane Henschel is the hellish mother-in-law Kabanicha (perhaps a little too kindly at times). The young lovers Kudrash and Varavara are splendidly portrayed by peter Wedd and Victoria Simmonds. The WNO orchestra knows its Janácek, and Carlo Rizzi conducts a generally fine performance.
Sunday Telegraph

This is the fifth Janácek opera in Chandos opera in English series, and with the vivid, well separated sound, balancing the voices in front of the orchestra the first impression is how clear the words are from the singers of the Welsh national Opera production on which the recording is based… Another outstanding issue in the Opera in English series.

This is the fifth Janácek opera in Chandos’ Opera in English series, and with vivid, well separated sound, balancing the voices in front of the orchestra, the first impression is how clear the words are from the singers of the Welsh National Opera production on which this recording is based. This is a very welcome companion to the outstanding English version of The Markopulos Case conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras… Another outstanding issue in the Opera in English series.

An English language Katya Kabanova is the latest in the Chandos/Peter Moores Foundation series of Opera in English, which has already given us several distinguished additions to the Janácek discography; Here I’m happy to report, is another… Her [Cheryl Barker] performance of the final scene is overwhelming – as with her Marty, Barker’s sense of singing line marks her out as one of the great Janácek interpreters, allied to her perceptive character portrayal.
International Record Review

Cheryl Barker played and sang Katya to perfection…
Cornish Guardian

This the fourth of Janácek’s operas to appear in Chandos’s English language series, and in many ways it is one of the most successful. The balance between singers and orchestra is ideal, allowing the words to come across with clarity yet never compromising the richness and impact of the composer’s orchestration.

Critic’s Choice Edward Greenfield

Janácek called this ‘one of my most tender works’. But Norman Tucker’s English translation, with revisions by Rodney Blumer and Henrietta Bredin, is the real point of this record of WNO’s 2004 staging. Czech is one of the few operatic languages, in my view, where English-speaking audiences are better-off listening to their native tongue; so this is a worthy addition to Chandos’ Opera in English series, especially distinguished by Cheryl Barker’s outstanding performance in the title role.
The Observer

Reviews of Welsh National Opera’s 2004 performances of Katya Kabanova
Cheryl Barker’s Katya is a huge achievement, rapturously sung, pertinently acted…

Venue Magazine

Janácek’s terrifying, glorious opera, born of his own unrequited love for another man’s wife, is given the Chandos treatment. The Australian soprano Cheryl Barker cements her Janácek credentials with a richly voice Katya, fleeing wide-eyed from her evil mother-in-law Kabanicha (a steely Jane Hensche) and mother-pecked husband (Peter Hoare). The conductor Carlo Rizzi draws out the undertow of sorrow with ecstatic echoes of Madama Butterfly.
The Times

The English diction of almost the entire cast is outstanding, Gwynne Howell’s disagreeable old Dikoi sets the standard, and Peter Wedd (Kudryash) brings an intimacy to the text that greatly enhances the listening experience.
Sunday Times

Stiff competition there may be from recordings in the original Czech, yet the latest Janácek release from Chandos, part of the Opera in English series, can bear comparison to the best
Classic FM

Rizzi… has his own Janacek style. Katya is less spiky , more intimate and lyrical than Makropulos, and Rizzi illuminates this with almost Puccinian warmth, while keenly evoking the tightening tensions beneath. The studio recording too, lets his excellent cast handle the translation more expressively, especially Barker’s harried heroine.
BBC Music Magazine 'Choice'


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