Leoš Janáček's opera Katya Kabanova premiered 100 years ago

A century has passed since the world premiere of Leoš Janáček's opera Katya Kabanova, which was first performed in Brno on November 23, 1921. It has since appeared on leading opera stages and, just like Janáček’s other operas, it has become a permanent part of the repertoire of concert halls around the world.

Katya Kabanova is Janáček's second most successful opera after Jenůfa. It was the success of Jenůfa in Prague and Vienna that inspired Janáček to write another opera.

Janáček had been thinking for some time about an opera based on a play The Thunderstorm by the Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky. He wrote the Czech libretto himself. However, he wasn’t sure about the choice of the title.

In the end, he decided to name the opera after one of the main heroines, Katerina. To avoid confusion with the Empress of Russia Catherine the Great, he chose the title Katya Kabanova.

The opera actually has two main heroines. The antagonist of the gentle, romantic Katya is her despotic mother-in-law Kabanicha, who represents the rough and coarse behaviour of the lower classes.

In today’s edition of Sunday Music, we'll listen to a part of the opera, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton direction of Charles Mackerras. Starring in the key roles are Elisabeth Söderström as Katya and Nadezhda Kniplova as Kabanicha.