BWW Reviews: Betsy Horne Shines as KAT'A KABANOVA at Spoleto Festival

By: May. 28, 2014
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In her operatic debut, director Garry Hynes premiered her staging of the classic 20th Century opera KAT'A KABANOVA at the Spoleto Festival on May 24. Artistic Director of the Irish theatre company Druid, Hynes holds the distinction of being the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Play (for THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE).

Based on Ostrovsky's play THE STORM, Kat'a Kabanova takes the audience inside the mind of an idealistic young woman (played by Betsy Horne in her American debut) trapped in a repressive marriage to an older man. In this dramatically demanding role, Horne's crystal clear soprano voice is ably paired by her dynamic acting abilities. Her Ophelia-like mental deterioration after surrendering her moral convictions and succumbing to an affair is depicted with clarity and rich pathos. Her suicidal plunge into the Volga at the opera's end marks the culmination of a clearly plotted emotional journey.

Noteworthy performances among the supporting cast include Dennis Petersen as Kat'a's spineless husband Tichon, a man utterly ruled by his demanding and self-righteous mother. In the role of Kabanicha, Jennifer Roderer commands the stage as a larger-than-life nightmare of a mother-in-law. A delightful Megan Marino plays Varvara, Kat'a's vivacious confidante.

Stark minimalism defines the concrete set, designed by Matt Saunders. Comprised of a simple box dominated by a low ceiling that is half the height of the proscenium arch, the enclosed space suggests Kat'a's claustrophic, joyless world. Doors set into the back wall open for a memorable visual of the townspeople sheltering under umbrellas as a storm erupts.

Conducted by Anne Manson, the Spoleto USA Orchestra was a trifle over-powering in volume on opening night, at times overwhelming the vocalists. Otherwise, the production was a highly successful melding of musical, visual and dramatic excellence.

Pictured: Betsy Horne as Kat'a. Photography by Julia Lynn.


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