Friday, May 04, 2007

A Tale of Two Productions: Katya Kabanova

A Tale of Two Productions: Katya Kabanova

So far in my Opera North excursions there had been the utterly delightful The Elixir of Love, which had me enraptured and not wanting it to end, and the utterly static Orfeo, which had me needing the loo and wondering where the end could possibly have gotten to. I rather hoped that Katya Kabanova would prove to be in the former group rather than the latter. I was in a good mood. I was still full of the joys of Elixir. As a mark of my commitment to this whole 'Coza does Opera' project I had even been listening to Opera when I would normally have been playing Boys with Guitars. I was ready to begin my indoctrination proper.

What I got instead was an hour and a half of one of the most tedium inducing productions I have ever sat through. And remember, I've sat through a lot of student theatre. In Opera terms I cannot talk fluently about the music or the orchestration (the former got the thumbs up from History Boy) but I can comment on the production and what feelings it evoked in me (principally in this case a rather profound sense of boredom).

But the good things first. The cast could sing even if they never particularly captivated me. There was a really cool bit of scenery movement 60 seconds from the end of the production. And? Erm, if you put aside the fact there was no interval, that's about it.

From the first scene the level of depression was notched up to 10. There was no sense of building, no possibility that this tragedy may be averted, or, even better, a pulsating and inevitable surge towards its resolution. There was just unremitting, all encapsulating despair. There was simply nowhere to go. Ten minutes in they had lost me.

Then there was the translation. For reasons I'm not quite clear of the production was sung in English with a translation that was so prosaic that I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. There was no subtlety or depth to it, let alone any magic or, dare I say it, beauty. I can say with absolute certainty that I would have enjoyed it more in the original language, which gives the license to let it wash over you in a way that a English language production doesn't when you are me and I am all about the words.

In a moment which probably summed up the lack of inventiveness of the production, when the climax of the Opera came, with Katya drowning herself in the way that every good insane woman must do, this was dramatised by her walking into a blue light. I am sorry, is this a school production here? All those trained technical people and paid designers and all you can come up with is a blue light? A blue light?

I did manage to stay until the end (unlike Dean who left after 25 minutes on the pretence of going to the loo and never came back) but I doubt there is much I will remember from this most underwhelming of productions. And, just to add insult to injury, the Grand made me go and get my own plastic cup again.

Maybe reports of my opera conversion were a bit premature.

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