I've played this through a couple of times over the last few days and now my brain is saturated with its glorious themes. I've read the synopsis so I know roughly what's going on, but to follow it through with the libretto is something I find impossible, because sooner or later I am overwhelmed by the music, I put the booklet down, I close my eyes and lie back to luxuriate in the awesome power and the endless vitality of the music and the gorgeous singing, by all concerned, but above all by the exotic Maria Ewing. With a voice like hers I think I would kill for her.
It's such a strange opera. The only person you can feel any sympathy for is the arch murderess herself. Everyone that get's done in deserves it after all.
And why did it bring down Stalin's wrath on Dmitry? Was it the prurience of the tyrant, because there is no denying there are adult themes to say the least. Or was it, as has been suggested the corruption of the police and above all their chief, which despite being set in tsarist times, Stalin saw as a dig at him personally? Perhaps it was just his own bad conscience? Certainly, it cannot have been the music which combines vigorous music hall wit with the sublime obliterating power that only Shostakovich seems to get from an orchestra. Just thinking about the music that denotes the icy blasts of the Siberian steppes in the final act just makes my knees knock together.
It is a glorious performance and beautifully recorded, with an excellent presentation with booklet including libretto and interesting essays. My one complaint is that the dynamics are so broad that you must spend a lot of time straining to hear, OR, as in my case you have to subject the non-Shostakovich loving contingent of the household to the various shattering crescendi that punctuate the work. I have considered getting the classic Rostropovich version with Galina Vishnevskaya in the title role just to circumvent this problem, Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, but the samples I've played suggest that Vishnevskaya, whom I do admire, just doesn't have the voluptuousness that Ewing brings to the role. What I have done is ordered one of the available DVD's of the production, plumping for Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk - Shostakovich  (NTSC). I don't have high hopes for the music, in particular the voices for this production, given the equivocal reviews, but it will let me get the story straight, and who knows, I may be pleasantly surprised?Read more ›