Whirlpool, The [Kruśtňava (Katrena)]
- Igor Vajda
Opera in an overture and six scenes by Eugen Suchoň; to a libretto by the composer and Štefan Hoza after Milo Urban’s short story Za vyšným mlynom (‘Over the Upper Mill’); Bratislava, Slovak National Opera, 10 December 1949.
Composed between 1941 and 1949, The Whirlpool was an immediate success, with 40 performances in its first two seasons. Further productions soon followed: Vajda (p.349) lists 43 up to 1985, several of them in the West (including the USA), where the work is sometimes given under the name Katrena. It is the most successful and most frequently performed postwar Czechoslovak opera and the foundation stone of modern Slovak opera. Suchoň enriched the genre with folk colour in his depiction of popular festivities and wedding celebrations (though only two genuine folk melodies are quoted), and reinforced the social context while attempting to invest the whole work with a statement of belief in the purifying and cathartic nature of art. The chorus not only contributes to the action but also acts as the conscience of rural society; in the words of Polyakova, ‘The voice of the chorus, which Ondrej hears as that of the people, although it is in fact his own inner voice, persuades him finally to admit his crime and to give himself up willingly to justice’. In writing the libretto Suchoň and Hoza added many elements of folk poetry to Urban’s text, including fragments of songs, rhymes and proverbs as well as characteristic figures of speech and turns of phrase....