Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Dmitri Shostakovich

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

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Overview

When soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek and tenor Brandon Jovanovich starred in Shostakovich’s searing Soviet-era satire in 2014, they set the Met stage ablaze, with The New York Times hailing Westbroek’s “vulnerable and wrenching performance” and proclaiming Jovanovich “ideal ... dramatically fearless.” Now, the dynamic pair reunite in Graham Vick’s vivid staging, with Maestro Keri-Lynn Wilson making her Met debut.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

World premiere: Maly Opera Theater, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), 1934
One of the undisputed musical masterpieces of the last 100 years, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is a bleak, existential drama that is satirical and critical of society but also retains a sharply focused narrative, with Shostakovich’s thrilling score accentuating each of its dramatic points. Based on an engrossing novella by Nikolai Leskov, the opera maintains its source material’s frenetic pace with propulsive music and a plethora of activity, suggesting that any actions—even of the criminal variety—are preferable to the crushing ennui of conventional life.

Creators

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75), one of the 20th century’s most prominent composers, wrote 15 symphonies and a large quantity of chamber music, as well as compositions in other genres. The composer collaborated with playwright Alexander Preys (1905–42) to create the opera’s libretto, adapting a story by Nikolai Leskov (1831–95), a Russian author and journalist highly respected by many of the towering literary figures of his time.

Production

Graham Vick

Set and Costume Designer

Paul Brown

Lighting Designer

Nick Chelton

Choreographer

Ron Howell

Setting

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

The opera takes place in the Mtsensk District, about 150 miles south of Moscow, and in Siberia, the vast, harsh land in the northeastern part of Russia, to which criminals were traditionally banished throughout the country’s history.

Music

The score of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is dramatic, diverse, and utterly compelling, displaying the composer’s complete mastery and transcendence of familiar musical forms. Despite the jagged feel of the music, melody is not absent—it appears briefly but often vanishes before it is allowed to develop. The main exception to this is the role of Katerina herself. Her forays into prolonged musical expression make her a profound and, within the givens of this dark world, sympathetic character.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk