Andrea Breth’s staging, first seen in Brussels in 2010, is visually striking, yet the unrelentingly savage tone seems wildly out-of-step with the opera’s searing passions. This is the German director’s third outing at the Staatsoper. Many of the same elements that had made her 2010 production of Wozzeck a triumph, works against her in Kat’a. Wozzeck is, in fact, an opera about dehumanization and degradation. Here, her aesthetic seemed incapable of dramatizing emotional interiority, in much the same way as her dull-as-a-doornail Lulu the following season.
Though it offers a few moments of dark beauty – the ground fires during the storm and a mist-like downpour before Kat’a goes to meet Boris for the first time – Breth’s production is mostly an alienating experience that go against the work’s psychological intensity. She delivers an unnecessarily menacing and cold production – and I’m not just saying that because Kat’a’s favorite place to be is inside a refrigerator!