Katya Kabanova
  • Leoš Janáček. Opera in three acts. 1921.
  • Libretto by the composer, after the play Groza (Storm) by Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky.
  • First performance at the National Theatre, Brno, on 23rd November 1921.
CHARACTERS
Marfa Ignatĕvna Kabanová, widow of a rich merchant contralto
Tichon Ivanyč Kabanov, her son tenor
Kate˙rina (Katya), his wife soprano
Varvara, a foster-child with the Kabanovs mezzo-soprano
Savël Prokofjeviĕ Dikoj, a rich merchant bass
Boris Grigorjevič Dikoj, his nephew tenor
Váňa Kudrjáš, Dikoj's clerk tenor
Glas˙a, a servant of the Kabanovs mezzo-soprano
Fekluša, a servant mezzo-soprano
Kuligin, a friend of Kudrjáš baritone

Set in the small Russian town of Kalinov, on the banks of the Volga, in 1860, the opera opens by the riverside, outside the Kabanovs' house. Boris, tied by the terms of his grandmother's will to employment with his unreasonable and tyrannical uncle, complains to Kudrjáš and admits that he is in love with Katya, now returning from church in a party led by her domineering mother-in-law, who abuses her son and Katya. Inside the house Katya tells the servant Varvara of her unhappiness, the latter urging her to look to others, apart from her husband. Tichon announces that he must go to Kazan on business, at his mother's behest. She makes him elicit from Katya a promise not to see any other men, while he is away. Later the same day, Katya is nagged by her mother-in-law. Varvara arranges to let her into the garden, where she may meet another. In the garden Varvara meets Kudrjáš and Katya comes out to meet Boris. In a summer-house by the river bank, some days later, Kudrjáš and his friend Kuligin take shelter from a storm, joined by Dikoj, who regards the storm as an omen. As he goes, Varvara appears, joined by Boris, whom she warns of Tichon's return. Boris hides, as Katya and her husband and mother-in-law come in, Katya now loudly confessing her infidelity. The final scene finds Tichon and the servant Glas˙a looking for Katya, who has left home. As they move away in their search, Katya appears and now meets Boris for the last time. They bid each other farewell and Katya, now alone, throws herself into the river. Tichon, restrained by his mother, cannot save her, and Dikoj drags her body onto the bank.

Janáček dedicated his opera to the young Kamila Stösslová with whom he became infatuated during his final years. He seems to have modelled his portrait of Katya on her. Concert excerpts from scores as tightly knit as those of Janáček are virtually impossible, with the close melodic dependence of each melodic figure on the words set, although the emotive prelude to Kat'a Kabanová, with its suggestion of Tichon's journey to Kazan and Katya's reflection on her unhappy situation, may occasionally be heard out of its operatic context.