Search - Dimitri Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya :: Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk / Vishnevskaya, Gedda, Petrov, LPO, Rostropovich

Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk / Vishnevskaya, Gedda, Petrov, LPO, Rostropovich
Dimitri Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya
Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk / Vishnevskaya, Gedda, Petrov, LPO, Rostropovich
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #2

Written between 1930 and 1932, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was one of the most brilliant achievements of Shostakovich's long career. It was also the work that got him into trouble with Stalin. When the Soviet leader at...  more »


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Written between 1930 and 1932, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was one of the most brilliant achievements of Shostakovich's long career. It was also the work that got him into trouble with Stalin. When the Soviet leader attended a performance in Moscow in 1936, almost two years after the opera's acclaimed Leningrad premiere, he personally ordered the publication of a scathing article in Pravda ("Muddle Instead of Music"), unleashing a ruthless campaign to reduce the arts in Soviet Russia to a state of dogmatic subservience to the regime. Lady Macbeth would disappear from the repertory for 30 years, and Shostakovich, despite his great gifts for opera, would focus his attention on symphonic and chamber music instead. But what an opera this one was! Notwithstanding its title, it has nothing to do with Shakespeare's Macbeth and quite a lot to do with Dostoevsky (even though it's based on a story by another 19th-century writer, Nikolai Laskov). The plot has all the elements of a Russian epic--boredom, need, irresistible sexual longing, infidelity, murder, suicide--and the music is vintage Shostakovich, swinging between farce and tragedy with astonishing sureness, magnificently intense, deeply absorbing, yet approachable. The opera's climactic scenes are driven by music of incredible power, and there are pages of haunting lyric beauty as well, such as Katarina's aria in scene 3, or the extraordinary music that begins the love scene between Katarina and Sergey--mysterious, edgy, sensuous, and vast. It's all brought home on this recording, a labor of love from two of the composer's closest friends and greatest champions. Vishnevskaya, the great exponent of the role of Katarina, sings with untrammeled splendor, while Rostropovich, the supreme interpreter of the music of Shostakovich in our time, conducts a characterful, white-hot performance by the London Philharmonic. --Ted Libbey

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CD Reviews

The only modern masterpiece!
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Out of all the operas written in 20th century, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" certainly stands out as being the richest in melodies and bravest in expression. It is truly the work of Genius. Shostakovich put all the power of his glorious talent for musical character sketching behind this work. In 1934 Dmitri Dmitrievich was reaching his prime, he was idealistic, and not yet taken through the years of communist punishment. In her autobiography "Galina", the singer explains that at the time the composer was also madly in love with his first wife. As a result, Katerina has some of the most beautiful music he had ever written. The men in the opera, by contrast, have the most brutal, alarming, and dark music. All the music carries shades of folksongs, but it's generous, expansive, and flowing for Katerina, and often syncopated, broken, harsh for the men. You can't help liking "Lady Macbeth" and feeling sorry for her. The opera is recorded with the great cast, but the two shining stars here are the incredible husband and wife team of Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich. Both great admirers, friends, and, in a way, pupils of the composer, exiles at the time of this recording, they put a personal touch to this opera, unmatched on record. The legendary prima donna of Bolshoi, Galina Vishnevskaya is her best here. Her immense voice adapts easily to extraordinary high demands of the role, from tender heartwarming pianissimos to powerful but always clear fff. When it comes to subtleties and vivid characterization, she has no equal. Plus, Katerina is one of her favorite roles, she has starred in the movie "Katerina Ismailova", and no matter how many recordings and productions of this opera you might see, you won't find anything to remotely resemble her performance. The greatest cellist of our time Mstislav Rostropovich proves once again that remarkable instrumentalists can make extraordinary conductors. He revels in passion, beauty, and intricacy of the score, always maintaining cohesiveness in the orchestra and warmth and fullness of sound. The interlude following the death of Boris serves as a great example when rather than the finality if death the listener feels the terror of things to come. In Nicolai Gedda's experienced hands, Sergei comes through just as the composer wanted us to see him - a shallow, weak, cowardly and indulgent man, not worthy of Katerina's love. When in scene five he says, "I wanted to declare you my wife before God" we know: he is lying! Under his reassuring that he is a man of culture and understands what love is, there is only a villager who happened to be at the right place at the right time to offer Katerina a mere substitute for what she wanted a great love to be, only to abandon her when he has nothing more to gain. Bulgarian bass Dimiter Petkov offers a very vivid portrayal of lusty old (but still strong) man. His Mephistophelean laugh and later - his ghostly appearance sang on very low echoing notes make him the ultimate bad guy. Loved the policemen! What a fantastic picture of "law-and-order" in Russia, still true these days. EMI offers very clear and well-balanced sound (which was, probably, extremely difficult to accomplish), a nice booklet graced by a picture of beautiful Galina Vishnevskaya, and good liner notes. I would love to have Cyrillic texts, but the phonetic spelling is done correctly. An absolutely fantastic set, the best tribute to Shostakovich!"
WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! and WOW! | Seattle | 04/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Along with the great Mozart operas, Russian opera is where my passion lies. Tchaikovsky, Moussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Glinka and Prokofiev- all great composers who wrote astounding operas that are too often neglected in the west, with perhaps the exception of Moussorgsky's 'Boris Godounov' and Tchaikovsky's 'Pique Dame' and 'Eugene Onegin.'What I love about Russian opera is it's not only Grand opera at its best, its history. The operas of Moussorgsky, Rimsky, Prokofiev, Borodin, Glinka, and Tchaikovsky (Mazeppa) are based on Russian history- they are truth. There's also the grand score, chorus', massive casts...Russian opera has it all...Well I was suprised to find Shostakovich wrote opera. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk came highly recommended and because of my love of Russian opera, I purchased it. At this point I want to say I entirely loath modern opera. So I stop on my walk home and pick up Lady Macbeth. (A friend wanted to purchase it too but I went to the only store that had it a store he didn't know about and I didn't tell him about as he got off work before me. Evil? I know- but it was my idea to get it first). Well after listening to the first act, I HATED IT! HUGELY! It was too modern and did not contain a huge amount of chorus and it was not based on Russian history. I immediately emailed my friend saying I hate it and he is welcome to buy it from me....I tend to be premature with things. Nothing is given a chance to grow on me, it makes and almost immediate impact or it isn't given much of a chance to do so.Well after listening to the whole thing I was completely KNOCKED OUT! This opera is musically and dramatically utterly amazing. Pushing the gate Lady Macbeth has climbed my ranks and falls behind Le nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflote as my top favorite operas.The score of Lady Macbeth is fast and loud in many parts and softly beautiful in others. The story is awesome; sex, adultery, murder, rape, poison, siberia, suicide, hauntings...what a story.In the first act we meet Katerina. A bored housewife who cannot read. She is kept after by her father-in-law Boris, while her husband is frequently away. She meets Sergey and quickly the two are lovers. Boris catches them together and beats Sergey...then demands that Katerina bring him dinner. She poisons his mushrooms and Boris dies.The end of Act Two is quite a treat. First the Ghost of Boris appears before her cursing her, then Zinoviy (her husband) comes home, catches her in bed with her lover, beats her, then is strangled by her and Sergey (her lover). Caught, Katerina and Sergey are exported to a prison camp in Siberia. There, Sergey leaves Katerina for Sonyetka. Sergey and Sonyetka mock Katerina. Well she has had it.... in the operas closing pages Katerina throws herself to her death in the freezing Volga river...but before she jumps she grabs Sonyetka and drags her down with her. Lastly, the opera challanges your morals. Do you really think under any circumstance murder is justifyable? I don't. I think she's nuts. My friend doesn't. He views Katerina as a heroine on the scale of Boheme's Mimi. You see Katerina is a prisoner at the hands of her husband and father-in-law... in short, she's bored with life. Well, she certainly found ways to make it unboring!Truly a GREAT story with a firey score that is quite awesome...modern yet very melodic and it keeps well with Russian traditions while being bold, inspiring and inventive.Cast wise this recording is simply phenomenal. Katarina is a HUGE role. She is literally barely NOT on stage. Galina Vishnevskaya is simply sensational... this woman KNOCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF with the power of her voice! When she reacts to seeing Boris' ghost- GOOSE BUMP CITY! The duet with his ghost immediately following is awesome as well. There is not a dull momemt here. Gedda is astounding as usual. The whole cast is brilliant, the conducting is brilliant, and the London Philharmonic will BLOW YOUR FRONT DOOR DOWN with it's power in much of the score! Nothing like putting this one in your discman, walking, and blowing your ear drums out...! I am serious- it gets so loud at points and I LOVE IT!I cannot recommend this opera enough...It is an essential recording whether you are a fan of Russian opera or not. It is simply sensational... I could go on and on and on about this opera, and did!A shear triumph...perhaps the greatest not well known gem out there. GET IT!"
(5 out of 5 stars)

"EMI has remastered this enduring classic on its "Great Recordings of the Century" line, and it is available. Here's the ID number for finding it on Amazon, or just do a search for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk:B000063UM3"