This performance is not original, but based on an abbreviated version of the Rostropovich/Vishnevskaya recording, the only one available. This score is one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century, a magnificent work. The movie brings it down to 100 minutes, presumably for manageable length. Anyone expecting to hear the whole score is going to be disappointed, but so what? This is not an opera that is frequently performed even in opera houses, so I'm grateful to the director for what there is.
Time Magazine, reviewing the opera at its Met premiere in 1934, referred to the music in the love/rape scenes as `pornophony'. The director certainly got that right. The prudish or the parents of a muscially gifted minor should be warned that these scenes leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. As both actors are attractive and the action is indicated in the music (Time was absolutely right), I found these scenes appropriate and interesting, as well as erotic.
The negative occurs in the staging of the finale. These must be the best dressed, most humanely treated Siberian exiles in history. No chains, no prison garb, none of the degradation of mind and spirit that motivates the heroine's suicide. The criticism here is precisely the opposite of the praise of the intimate scenes, that the staging and music do not match. All the more puzzling, as the scene is set out of doors and realism could have been easily achieved.
All in all, people who like the opera, who are fascinated by Shostakovich, or who simply want an approachable version of an masterpiece should have this disc. You're not likely to get another, and what's good in it is very good. The reviewer above who described this work musically as mediocre is not worthy of credence. Even the edited version here is musically superb.