Music by Leoš Janáček to a libretto by Vincenc Červinka, based on The Storm, a play by Aleksandr Ostrovsky
A town on the Volga
Scene 1 Outside the Kabanovs’ house
Kudriash is admiring the Volga when he is interrupted by Dikoy shouting at his nephew Boris. Boris is trapped in Dikoy’s household under a condition of his inheritance that obliges him to show obedience to his uncle for a period of time. When Dikoy goes off to look for Kabanicha, the widowed matriarch of the Kabanov household, Boris confesses to Kudriash that he has fallen in love with a married woman – Katya Kabanova.
The Kabanovs return from church. Kabanicha orders her son, Tikhon, to leave at once for the market at Kazan. She complains bitterly that he no longer respects her, and rebukes Katya when she dares to answer. Finally, Varvara, the foster-child of the family, rebukes Tikhon for his weakness and drunkenness, and expresses sympathy for Katya.
Scene 2 Inside the Kabanovs’ house
Katya recalls her happy childhood to Varvara. She also confides that she is having sinful dreams about another man. Terrified at the thought of temptation, Katya begs Tikhon to protect her – either by taking her away with him, or by making her swear an oath never to look at a stranger. He refuses and it is Kabanicha who pronounces instructions as to how Katya ought to behave during Tikhon’s absence. The crucial one – not to look at other men – is devastating to Katya.
Scene 1 Inside the Kabanovs’ house
Kabanicha reproaches Katya for not seeming to care about Tikhon’s departure. She should weep for him or at least seem to. Once Kabanicha has gone Varvara reveals that she has obtained the key to the garden gate, and offers to arrange a meeting between Katya and Boris. Katya refuses but alone she cannot resist and resolves to meet Boris. She slips away from the house.
Dikoy and Kabanicha are drinking together. Dikoy enjoys the company of Kabanicha.
Scene 2 The promenade near the Kabanovs’ garden gate
While Kudriash waits for Varvara, he sings a love song. Boris enters: he has come in the hope of meeting Katya. Kudriash warns him about the dangers for a married woman. Boris won’t listen and Varvara and Kudriash go off to the river.
Katya arrives and Boris declares his feelings for her. Though Katya tries not to she admits that she loves him.
Scene 1 On the banks of the river
Kudriash and Kuligin meet as a storm is gathering. Dikoy arrives and starts to argue about the nature of storms. For Kudriash, they are merely electricity; for Dikoy, storms are a punishment to show the power of God.
Varavara warns Boris that since Tikhon has returned from Kazan, Katya has become hysterical – even threatening to confess her adultery. As the storm reaches its climax, Katya can no longer contain her guilt and, in front of Kabanicha, she confesses everything before running away.
Tikhon and Glasha search for Katya. Varvara and Kudriash meet and decide to elope to Moscow. Katya appears alone and tormented ; there is no future for her, either in escape or in the misery of life with Tikhon.
Boris finds her, and reveals that he is to be sent away to Siberia by Dikoy. Katya tells Boris that when he leaves her he must never refuse a beggar, and after one last look they part
Katya imagines herself in a grave covered in flowers and then throws herself in the river.
One of the search parties hears Katya fall in to the river, and her body is soon recovered. Tikhon accuses Kabanicha of murdering his wife. Kabanicha calmly thanks her neighbours for their assistance in these unfortunate events.
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