Lady Macbeth of Metsensk by Shostakovich
Returns to the Israeli Opera
Conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson
The Israeli Opera 26th season continues with a revival of one of the most important and significant operas of the 20th century – Dmitri Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, a passionate love story in which the protagonist commits a triple murder before taking her own life, once she realized the man she loves does not care for her any more.
Canadian-American conductor Keri-Lynn returns to the Israeli Opera (where she conducted both La boheme and Pique Dame) to lead an international and local cast in the classic production which was originally directed 13 years ago by the late Irina Molostova, a close friend of Shostakovich. The joint production of the Israeli Opera and the Kirov (Mariinski Opera from St. Petersburg features a set designed by George Tsypin and lighting designed by Vladimir Lukasevitch. The production will be directed this time by Yulia Pevzner, following Molostova's original production.
Wilson will conduct the Israeli Opera chorus and the opera orchestra, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion. 9 performances are planned at the opera house commencing March 9, 2011. The opera is performed in Russian with Hebrew and English surtitles.
As is usual in all Israeli Opera performances, a 30 minutes pre performance lecture (in Hebrew) will be available to all ticket holders one hour before curtain time. Opera Talkbacks will take place after several of the performances.
Lady Macbeth… but from Mtsensk
Shostakovich based his opera on a short novella by Nikolai Leskov, a story which takes place in a small city of Mtsensk. The protagonist, Katerina Ismailova, is married to a wealthy man who spends a lot of time away from home. Katerina falls in love with Sergei, one of the works in the family's estate, and in order to marry him, first she poisons to death her father in law and then with the assistance of Sergei she murders her husband. During the wedding celebration, the murder is revealed and Katerina and Sergei are sentenced to exile in Siberia. But this is not the end. On the ay to Siberia, Sergei falls in love with a younger and sexy woman. When Katerina discovers that, she pushes the young lady to her death in the freezing water of the river and then follows suit, thus killing herself as well.
Shostakovich and Lady Macbeth
The life of Dmitri Shostakovich was perpetually touched by the politics of his native Russia. During the first years of his career the composer enjoyed the cultural vitality of the regime. It was a time when he could listen freely to the music of composers such as Berg and Hindemith played in Russia. It was a time when the regime did not interfere too much with the individual work of the artists. As long as they have created so called social reflected art, Russian artists could actually create without any interference. In a country which was plagued by famine and disease the powers that be could not find the time and necessity to be too involved with the life and work of the artists. But things have drastically changed once Stalin emerged. Now the regime began to take much more notice of the arts and the so called European avant guarde trends in music and other art forms were decreed degenerate.
In 1936, for example, Pravda published a severe attack on Shostakovich's rather successful opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, an attack that no doubt was ordered, if not actually written, by Stalin himself. The opera was described as "fidgety, screaming, neurotic ... coarse, primitive and vulgar ... chaos instead of music." It was a time when experimentalism in the arts was entirely banned and the one and only aim of the arts was to please the masses. This opera did anything but that.
This attack came as quite a shock for the young composer who by that time has become one of the Soviet Union's leading musical figures. Solomon Volkov, who edited Testimony, Shostakovich's controversial memoirs, suggests that as result of the official condemnation of Lady Macbeth "Shostakovich was in despair, near suicidal. For nearly four decades, until his death, he would see himself as a hostage, a condemned man." Shostakovich responded in a typical way. He simply disappeared, withdrew into his own shell and eventually composed his fifth symphony as a reply which reestablished his reputation.
But in 1948 the composer, together with Prokofiev and Miaskovsky, was accused by Minister Andrei Zhdanov for not celebrating the victory of Russia in World War II in the appropriate musical manner. Again Shostakovich disappeared quietly and delivered, so called on request, some patriotic scores and film music. Only when Stalin died in 1953 did the composer feel sure enough to present all the music which was crystallizing within him during these very years, a song cycle, his violin concerto and the tenth symphony.
International Russian and Israeli Cast
Ukrainian born Canadian soprano Anna Shefanjinskaya makes her Israeli Opera debut in the role of Lady Macbeth, which will also be performed by Israeli soprano Larissa Tetuev. The role of Sergei will be shared by two Russian tenors who regularly perform on all leading opera stages around the world, Vsevolod Grivnov and Roman Muravitsky. Boris, Katerina's father in law, will be performed by leading Israeli Opera bass-baritone Vladimir Braun (who earlier this season performed the title role in Duke Bluebeard's Castle). The cast also features Russian bass Vladimir Matorin in the dual role of the Priest and the Old Convict, American tenor Doug Jones as the village drunken, Russian tenor Marat Gali as Zinovy, Katerina's husband, as well as Israeli Opera soloists Ayala Zimbler, Lilia Gretsova, Ala Vasilevitsky, Felix Livshitz, Noah Briger and others.