Teatro alla Scala, ''Kát'a Kabanová''


For the debut on its stage of the masterpiece by the Bohemian composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928), the Teatro alla Scala has chosen the splendid installation realized for the Vlaamse Opera of Anversa by the Canadian director Robert Carsen, also co-author of the light design, and by the Anglo-Irish scenographer and designer Patrick Kinmonth, already collaborator of Carsen in others hail occasions. The theatrical structure created by Carsen has justly been defined «essential, thin and merciless, of dramatic and lacerating poetry», (Nicola Salmoiraghi, L'opera, n. 204).In the image, the protagonist Kat'a he commits suicide drowning herself in the waters of the Volga in one of the final scenes of the opera.
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The stage of the Teatro Alla Scala is delimited on the sides by two big scenes made of COS - Oscurante molton and it is entirely and constantly covered by a veil of hedgetop water, that symbolizes that of the Volga, on whose shores the play The storm by Aleksandr Nikolaevic Ostrovskij develops.Ostrovskij is one of the great protagonists of the 800 Russian literature, to which Janacek is referred for the layout of the libretto (the same play had already inspired in precedence a known ouverture by Cajkovskij). Janacek was very interested to the Russian literature and also drew from it in other occasions inspiring himself to works by Tolstoj, Gogol' and Dostoevskij. The Russian subject will cost to Kát'a Kabanová, that had shown up in 1921 at the National Theater of Brno, the prohibition to be represented in its country during the second world war.
In order not to loosen the dramatic tension of the opera, Carsen chose to put it in scene without intervals, accenting an intuition of the same Janacek, that added in the 1927 two brief interludes for identical purpose with which to camouflage the interruptions caused by the changes of scene among the three acts. In the reading of Carsen, the changes of scene are performed by girls dressed of white as the protagonist, that move on the hair of the water the floats and the gangways that, together with few chairs, they constitute the only scenographical three-dimensional elements. Dumb and ghostly witnesses of the tragedy that looms on the opera, the girls anticipate the suicide of Kat'a replying it endlessly with some flash-forwards of the drowning, whose effect is magnified by a big Frontal projection screens realized with the PBO - Bianco Ottico film on which a video is projected shot by the top in real time.
The characters of the small community in which Kat'a lives, of whose hypocrisy, bigotry and baseness she remained victim, discover her suicide. The presence of the water, crossed often from circles and ripples, joined to an incisive use of the back lighting, it contributes to develop some scenes characterized by an intense emotional impact.
The house of the Kabanov, where a part of the play develops, is here symbolically represented by a float. The costumes by Patrick Kinmonth «... bring to an indistinct period between the thirties and Nine hundred the Fifty, Russia more suggested how real, where the closing and the sense of suffocation of the czarist period of the Nineteenth century, to which the book refers, find a comparison in the grey atmospheres, depressing and oppressive of every liberty of the Stalinist communism», (Nicola Salmoiraghi, ibidem).
The screen made of PBO - Bianco Ottico with which the staging by the Teatro Alla Scala integrated the scenography coming from the Vlamsee Opera of Anversa allowed the authors of the lights (the same Carsen and Flemish Peter Van Praet) to get some atmospheres with dark tonalities at times, that changed to melting ones some other times, like during this embrace between Kat'ia and the lover Boris, that allows to realize since the first lines the inevitability of the destiny of the protagonist.
The return to the grayness after the tragedy, that doesn't give an end to the hypocrisies. The husband Tichon accuses the other characters to be guilty of the death of Kat'a, while he himself is jointly responsible.
Another example of the way Carsen succeeded, with the combination of few elements (a mirror of water, a gangway, an immovable body, a screen) accompanied by a sharp use of the lights to create a counterpoint alienation effect that has an extreme modernity to the melodic, dissonant, dreamy and nighttime counterpoint that marks the musicality by Janácek.
Opera in three acts
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
Leoš Janáček
from the drama Grosa by Aleksandr Ostrovskij
First night
Brno, Divadlo na Hradbách, 23/11/1921

costume design
Patrick Kinmonth
Light design
Robert Carsen
Peter Van Praet
Philippe Giraudeau
Stage direction

2005 / 2006
revival of the staging of the De Vlaamse Opera of Antwerp

Materials used in this production

COS - Oscurante

Duvetyne and blackout fabrics

Frontal projection screens

Frontal projection screens

PBO - Bianco Ottico

Frontal projection films

Information on data processing