In Shostakovich's second opera, the tedium of everyday Russian life determines the fate of protagonist Katerina Ismailova. It is a work about the irrepressible nature of sexual urges, about erotic deeds of violence and liberation. Some of the scenes reached an unheard-of level of explicitness and were likely to have shocked the first audiences, but the work as a whole is an ode to love. The composer employs a polymorphic style with a wide variety of collage-like elements, but classical structures are clearly recognizable as well. The work's initial success was silenced by the publication of an official denunciation of the opera in the official Communist Party newspaper Pravda; this attack heralded a merciless, widespread and long-lasting idealistic clampdown on the Soviet music world.
In 2006, Der Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam programmed Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. Mariss Jansons, chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and one of the best-known conductors for Shostakovich's scores, made here his first appearance as guest conductor at DNO.
This new production was directed for stage by the Austrian Martin Kušej, who belongs to the new generation of stage and opera directors, having made a name for himself at the Salzburger Festspiele and Staatstheater Stuttgart.
While the divine soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek makes her debuts at the DNO as Katerina Lvovna Ismailova, the opera's veterans take the remaining lead roles: the Russian bass Anatoly Kotcherga (Boris Timofeyevich Ismailov), the Slovak tenor Ludovit Ludha (Zinovy Borisovich Ismailov) and the British tenor Christopher Ventris (Sergei).
Michael Boder, Stein Winge – Graham Clark (The Clerk, A Scrivener), Robert Brubaker (Prince Vasili Golitzin) – Gran Teatre del Liceu
Verbier Festival 2011
Lawrence Renes, Peter Sellars – Gerald Finley (J. Robert Oppenheimer), Thomas Glenn (Robert Wilson), Jessica Rivera (Kitty Oppenheimer) – De Nederlandse Opera