Scene 1: Outside the Kabanov house, afternoon
Kudrjas, a science teacher, admires the beauty of the river. The servant Glasha is unimpressed. Dikoj arrives, rebuking his nephew Boris for his laziness. He leaves when he learns Kabanicha, the matriarch of the household, is not at home. Left alone with Kudrjas, Boris explains he only stays with his uncle because of a provision in his grandmother’s will: if he and his sister are to claim their inheritance, they must respect their uncle and do as he says. Boris also admits to Kudrjas he has fallen in love with Katya Kabanova, wife of Tichon Kabanov.
When the Kabanov family returns from church, Kabanicha orders her son, Tichon, to leave at once for the market in a nearby city. She complains that he neglects her for his wife, Katya, and rebukes Katya when she dares to answer. Varvara, Tichon’s younger adopted sister, criticizes him for drinking too much and not defending his wife from his mother’s attacks.
Scene 2: Inside the Kabanov house, afternoon
Katya tells Varvara of her happy childhood. Varvara encourages Katya to talk about her dreams. Katya says she hears a man’s voice whispering in her ear, urging her to run away with him. Tichon appears, about to leave for market as his mother has ordered. Kabinicha insists that Tichon lay down the law for Katya before he leaves: she must respect and obey Kabanicha and not look at other men.
Scene 1: Inside the Kabanov house, late afternoon
Kabanicha reproaches Katya for not making a show of grief at Tichon’s departure. Once Kabanicha has left the room, Varvara reveals she has stolen the key to the garden gate; she tells Katya she will ask Boris to come to the garden. Katya nervously takes the key, hurriedly hiding it when Kabanicha re-enters with Dikoj who is drunk.
Scene 2: Outside the Kabanovs’ garden gate
Kudrjas arrives in the garden, waiting for Varvara. Boris arrives, hoping to meet Katya. Kudrjas warns him of the risks involved. Varvara tells Boris that Katya is coming, and then goes off with Kudrjas toward the river. Katya soon arrives. Boris declares his passion. Katya is guarded but ultimately concedes her impassioned feelings for him. Kudrjas and Varvara are heard declaring their love. Katya goes back through the gate, leaving Boris behind.
Scene 1: Two days later, a ruined building overlooking the river
Seeking shelter from a storm, Kudrjas and his friend Kuligin hide in a ruined building. They notice old paintings of hell and the damned still visible under the ruined apse. Dikoj arrives to take shelter. Kudrjas thinks the storm is “just electricity,” while Dikoj considers the storm a punishment from God.
Varvara tells Boris that Tichon has returned unexpectedly, prompting Katya to become hysterical. Everyone, including Kabanicha, soon gather in the ruined building to shelter from the storm. Arriving panicked, Katya falls on her knees and publicly confesses her infidelity, collapsing into her husband’s arms. She immediately tears herself away, and rushes out into the storm.
Scene 2: On the banks of the river
Tichon and Glasha are searching for Katya. Varvara and Kudrjas decide to run away together to the big city. Katya enters alone. Confused, she regrets her confession and longs for death. Boris arrives and tells her that his uncle is sending him away. Katya will remain at the mercy of her mother-in-law and drunken husband.
Boris leaves and Katya imagines her grave. Crossing her arms, she throws herself into the river. A search party enters, and Dikoj arrives with Katya’s corpse. Tichon blames his mother for Katya’s death. Kabanicha thanks all the neighbors for their kindness.
A brilliant showcase of singing actors, orchestral colour and heartbreaking emotions.
This powerfully emotional tragedy weaves a dreamlike, visceral story of isolation and oppression. Conducted by Director of Music, Wyn Davies, it is directed by Patrick Nolan, whose past New Zealand Opera productions include the unforgettable Eugene Onegin and La bohème.
Kátya is caught in a loveless marriage where she is dominated by an overbearing mother-in-law. She discovers true love with another man, but ultimately is unable to find happiness or peace. In this contemporary reimagining of the story, Kátya’s plight is understandable, hopeless and all too frequently echoed in modern society.