From Russia with angst

KATYA KABANOVA, LEEDS GRAND

Tuesday, 5th February 2019, 11:36 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 16:39 pm

KATYA KABANOVA, LEEDS GRAND

Think of a musical version of a Chekhov play, but with more violence, drunkenness and angst.

This is the tale of a young wife with deep religious convictions who is bullied by her mother-in-law, falls in love with another man, is ostracised by the community and drowns herself.

It sounds grim, and the fact that Janacek took the plot from a Russian play does nothing to dispel that fear, but it provides a riveting, and relatively brief, study of a tight-knit but dysfunctional community.

Tim Albery's production, an Opera North revival from 2007, tells the story clearly and without fuss. The simple but effective set and plain, understated costumes reflecting the smart but dour society in which they are worn, are designed by Hildegard Bechtler.

And, of course, Janacek's wonderful score provides a vivid musical commentary to what is unfolding on stage.

This is an ensemble production in which the performances by a relatively inexperienced cast are unshowy but effective.

Heather Shipp is the domineering but hypocritical matriarch, Andrew Kennedy her weak and drunken son, and Alexander Sprague and Katie Bray young lovers determined to break the shackles of their constricting society and go to Moscow (there's Chekov again!)

And Stephanie Corley excels in the title role, her flame-haired, pre-Raphaelite looks neatly suggesting the combination of repressed sexuality and religious piety which lead to her final desperation and suicide.

        Philip Andrews