Opera In English - Janácek: Katya Kabanova / Rizzi, Barker
This is the fifth Janácek opera in Chandos’s 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 the recording is based. This is a very welcome companion to the outstanding English version of The Makropulos Case (4/07) conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.
Carlo Rizzi, who conducted the live performances for WNO, is a comparably persuasive Janácek interpreter. It is fascinating to compare this version with Mackerras’s Decca recording (12/05) with the Vienna Philharmonic and an excellent, mainly Czech cast, Elisabeth Söderström taking the title-role. If that recording is marginally richer and weightier than the new Chandos, the strings of WNO play with comparable refinement. Rizzi’s interpretation in all three acts is a degree more urgent, with speeds consistently faster, no doubt reflecting his experience of conducting it live.
As in the English Makropulos Case, the principal singer is Cheryl Barker, fresh, clear and powerful, more girlish-sounding than Söderström. Jane Henschel is outstanding as Marfa Kabanova, the rich widow who persecutes her daughter-in-law, wonderfully rich and firm throughout her range. The three tenor roles are exceptionally well taken, even if the contrasts between Robert Brubaker as Boris, Peter Wedd as Kudryash and Peter Hoare as Tichon, husband of Katya and son of Marfa, are not ideally marked. Gwynne Howell as the merchant Dikoi, uncle of Boris, is also excellent.
The old Norman Tucker translation is used with some minor amendments by Rodney Blumer, nom de plume of critic Rodney Milnes, with words admirably clear throughout, adding to the dramatic impact of the piece. Another outstanding issue in the Opera in English series.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [12/2007]
Catalog Number: CHAN 3145(2)
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Conductor: Carlo Rizzi
Orchestra/Ensemble: Welsh National Opera Chorus, Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Performer: Cheryl Barker, Jane Henschel, Victoria Simmonds