Despite great early success, on both popular and official levels, Lady Macbeth was the vehicle for a general denunciation of Shostakovich's music by the Communist Party in early 1936. After being condemned by an anonymous article (sometimes attributed to Stalin) in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, it was banned in the Soviet Union for almost thirty years. Many people thus know the opera primarily for its role in the history of censorship.
The composer later revised the opera; as Op.114, it has two new entr’actes, a major revision to Act 1 Scene 3, and some smaller changes elsewhere. The revised version was first performed, renamed Katerina Izmailova, on 26 December 1962 in Moscow at the Stanislavsky-Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre. Shostakovich preferred the revised version, but since his death the original version, Op.29, possibly with some early revisions, is more often performed.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast,|
22 January 1934
(Conductor: Samuil Samosud)
|Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov, a Merchant||baritone|
|Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov, his son||tenor|
|Katerina Lvovna Izmailova, wife of Zinoviy Borisovich||soprano|
|Sergei, a workman employed at the Izmailovs||tenor|
|Aksinya, a workwoman employed at the Izmailovs||soprano|
|Tattered peasant (Village Drunk)||baritone|
|Workman, employed at the Izmailovs||tenor|
|Steward, a workman employed at the Izmailovs||bass|
|Porter, a workman employed at the Izmailovs||bass|
|First Workman, employed at the Izmailovs||tenor|
|Second Workman, employed at the Izmailovs||tenor|
|Sonyetka, a convict||contralto|
|A female convict||soprano|
|Ghost of Boris Timofeyevich||bass|
|Chorus: basses; Workpeople employed at the Izmailovs; Wedding guests; Policemen; male and female convicts|
Scene 1: Katerina's room Katerina is unhappily married to Zinovy, a provincial merchant. She complains to herself of her loneliness. Her father-in-law Boris says it is her fault for not producing an heir, but she blames her husband Zinovy for not being able to make her love him. Zinovy is called away on business, and Boris makes Katerina swear to be faithful. A servant, Aksinya, tells Katerina about the womanising new farm hand, Sergei.
Scene 2: The Ismailovs' yard
Sergei and his comrades have been teasing Aksinya. Katerina confronts him; they wrestle; she is thrown. When Boris appears, she says that she tripped.
Scene 3: Katerina's room Katerina goes to bed. Sergei comes to borrow a book, then embraces her, and they make love.
Scene 5: Katerina's room
Katerina and Sergei are together. After he falls asleep, she sees Boris' ghost. Later she hears Zinovy returning. Although Sergei hides, Zinovy sees his clothing and guesses the truth. Together Katerina and Sergei kill Zinovy.
Katerina and Sergei prepare to get married. A peasant finds Zinovy's body in the cellar and goes to fetch the police.
Scene 7: The police station
The police complain about not being invited to the wedding. The peasant arrives and gives them the opportunity for revenge.
Scene 8: The Ismailov garden
Everyone is drunk at the wedding. Katerina sees that the cellar door is open, but the police arrive as she and Sergei are trying to escape.
On the way to Siberia, Katerina bribes a guard to allow her to meet Sergei. He blames her for everything. After she leaves, Sergei tries to seduce another convict, Sonyetka. She demands a pair of stockings as her price. Sergei tricks Katerina into giving him hers, whereupon he gives them to Sonyetka. Sonyetka and the other convicts taunt Katerina, who pushes Sonyetka into a river and jumps in herself. They are swept away and the convict train moves on.
The thrust of the Pravda criticism was in terms of morality; it condemned the opera's sympathetic portrayal of the murderess. This criticism was revived by Taruskin in his 1989 article, where he interprets the work as "a justification of genocide". Daniil Zhitomirsky accuses the work of "primitive satire" in its treatment of the priest and police, but acknowledges the "incredible force" of the last scene
At the time, the composer justified the sympathetic portrayal of Katerina in Soviet terms, saying she was a victim of the circumstances of oppressive, pre-revolutionary Russia.
Classical: Great Theatre. Great Opera. Great Night out ; Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Royal Opera House LONDON Anne Sofie Von Otter/ Bengt Forsberg Wigmore Hall LONDON
Apr 11, 2004; Since Antonio Pappano's appointment to the post of music director some 18 months ago, Covent Garden has begun to embrace the idea...
RESPIGHI: Fountains of Rome. Pines of Rome. Belkis, Queen of Sheba: Danza Gueresca. SHOSTAKOVICH Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: Allegretto. ROTA la Strada
Sep 01, 2012; * RESPIGHI Fountains of Rome. Pines of Rome. Belkis, Queen of Sheba: Danza Gueresca. SHOSTAKOVICH Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra....
Profile: Los Angeles Opera presses to get sets built for opera "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk" when scenery fails to arrive from Russia due to West Coast lockout
Oct 23, 2002; 00-00-0000 Profile: Los Angeles Opera presses to get sets built for opera "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk" when scenery fails to arrive...