Театральная компания ЗМ


9 марта 2017

Shostakovich – Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Gregor Tassie | Musical Opinion Magazine

Samara Opera Company
Stanislavsky Musical Theatre, Moscow - Wednesday, 22 February 2017

This performance was unique for it was given at the very theatre where this opera was given its Moscow premiere in January 1934 and here, in its original version, the Samara Opera was presenting a one - off performance as part of the annual Golden Mask theatre awards season in the Russian capital.

The production by the Samara Opera is shared between the conductor Alexander Anisimov, the stage director Georgy Isaakyan, set designer Vyacheslav Okunev and lighting by Irina Vtornikova. The Samara Opera was founded in 1931 and is one of the finest opera and ballet companies outside the two major cities in Russia. During the Second World War the opera house became the temporary home for the Bolshoi when evacuated from Moscow. Notably, the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony was performed at the theatre by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. There have been several important premieres at the company of Russian operas; in 1999 they premiered Slonimsky’s opera The Vision of Ivan the Terrible in a production by Rostropovich. This staging was premiered on 20 May 2016 and had an enormous impact for it was nominated for the prestigious Golden Mask. There were several scenes in the staging which make this such an impressive production, before the music starts the curtains open to reveal an opening scene where all the main characters look out at the audience while the heroine Katerina slowly walks past as if judging them and their relationships to her. The sets throughout act 1-3 are dominated by the wooden house at the central space and the wooden fence or wall structure which is moved at will throughout the swiftly changing scenes. In act 4 a desolate space bordered by two fences depicts the convict scene in Siberia. The emphasis in the production is in the interactions between Katerina, her husband, her step-father, her lover Sergei and the villagers, conveying all the desperate pitiful destiny of Katerina’s plight. The relationship between Katerina and her step-father is determined at first with all the animosity between them brought out, and his abuse of her. The famous sex scene is closed off from the viewers by the fence being moved in front of the bedroom while a brass band takes the stage performing the loud and boisterous music of the interlude with alternately comic and brutal realism. The brass band made their first contribution coming on to celebrate the village festivity at Zinovy Izmailov’s leave-taking with the humorous folk dancing and the brass players continued to make important interventions throughout, making important brutally ironic and unforgiving accounts to the drama as it is exposed. There was the wedding scene of Sergei and Katerina with the guests dressed in red and who all became terribly sozzled, with the role of the priest made fun of brutally as he becomes increasingly drunk. The degree to which Shostakovich makes fun of several characters parodying them brutally and represents a truly bitter social criticism of society at the time and more likely of Russian life in general.

The interaction between Boris, her father-in-law and Katerina is a highlight of the whole production and also of significance is the role of the village folk with the worst side perhaps of the Russian character been presented in their willingness to celebrate Katerina’s happiness and at the same vilify her for taking a lover behind her husband’s back, and once more joyous at her arrest following the murder of the step-father.

The arrival of the convicts in Siberia was terribly dramatic with the pitiable scene of Katerina’s betrayal by Sergei cajoling her and giving her warm clothes to the prostitute Sonetka. Following her killing of Sonetka and at Katerina’s own suicide, there is heard the spiritual lament by the prisoners’ chorus and the old man singing a dirge, this was Andrey Antonov as the old convict, a moving moment and a musical passage with an affinity with Musorgsky’s closing scene of the Holy Fool’s lament in Boris Godunov. The full gravity of Shostakovich’s opera depicting the oppression of women in Tsarist society was presented here and it is difficult to see how any contemporary theatre company could match this brutally realistic staging of Shostakovich’s opera. The parts of the main characters were wonderfully realised; the central part of Katerina Izmailova was taken by Irina Krikunova who sang as if the role was written for her, indeed this is a difficult role embracing erotic love, grief, melancholy and final despair. The part of Boris Izmailov her step-father was Dmitry Skorikov an impressively dramatic portrayal and a fine singer. Sergei, Katerina’s lover was well depicted by Ilya Govzin and an excellent actor. The overwhelming impression watching this startling performance is that the 20th century lost a great opera composer following the tirade in Pravda. The astonishing theatrical genius of Shostakovich would surely have created other masterpieces which would have graced the stages of the world’s finest opera houses. In his notes about the opera, Shostakovich wrote modestly: ‘I have tried to characterise Katerina Lvovna as a positive person who merits sympathy from the audience.’ This performance was the highlight of my two-week review of the Russian music scene and it will long stay in the memory. Lady Macbeth is one of the nominees to win the prestigious Golden Mask and the Samara Opera must have a great opportunity to win the top prize with this successful and brilliant production.

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