Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk|
Actors: Christopher Ventris, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Vladimir Vaneev, Carole Wilson, Ludovit Ludha
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, a lurid tale of sex, murder, and corruption, premiered in 1934 and was a success until Stalin saw it two years later, resulting in a Pravda review that viciously condemned it. It was... more »
A most remarkable achievement.
Plaza Marcelino | Caracas Venezuela | 01/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Following Rostropovich's pioneering effort from the latter days of LP, Shostakovich's second (and last) opera seems to finally reach its deserved status amongst the 20th century's masterpieces in the genre. It is an outstanding work, perhaps among the composer's finest, along with the 1st violin concerto, the Michelangelo Sonnets, the 6th and 10th symphonies, the preludes and fugues for piano, the late quartets or that jewel of an opera, "The Nose". The contrast with his own watered-down version (Katerina Ismailova) which I own on Melodia LP's purchased long ago at Collett's in London's Charing Cross Rd. (they kind of specialised in selling records from the iron courtain countries) is revelatory and would explain Stalin's disgust with this original version (funny to notice how prudish dictators can be, no? no remorse from brutally having people killed or exiled to Siberia, but scandalised at Mme Ismailova's sexual frolics; it is said Hitler was quite prudish too, as is Castro, were said to be Saddam Hussein and Kim il Sung or others of their kind) and later satisfaction with the composer's 5th symphony.
Visually the production is stunning, a winner in all respects and I must congratulate Opus Arte for making it avaliable on DVD. I knew of producer Kusej's work only from reference, as not understanding german I have not attended any of his theatre productions. I haven't seen the work's EMI release on DVD of a Liceu staging, but found Gramophone's review of it rather demolishing (I don't know if they have turned their eyes yet to this Opus Arte Amsterdam version, but I should expect nothing short of a most favourable review from them).
Musically, there are two real "coups de foudre": one is of course the superlative playing of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the other the choosing of Mariss Jansons to conduct the work. Janson's key formative years at Leningrad under Mravinsky's wing assure us of a direct link not only to the composer via who was his most conspicuous and trusted collaborator, but also to the actual environment, politically and artistically, that hovered over the composer whilst composing this opera, which not only Mravinsky knew all too well but was a key player as he was able not only to survive it but also to excel within it. Singers-wise, top honours must go of course to Ms Westbroek, who sorts out an enormous task not only in vocal terms but also as an actress and stage presence (and she's also quite an attractive woman, if only she shedded a handful of kilos ...). She fully deserves every single bit of applause she gets in the courtain calls after the work's end. Ventris does not get an especially good comment in Gramophone's review of EMI's Liceu release, but as I haven't seen that one as I mentioned, I can't say if in the Amsterdam production he was better (or worse), I will only say that, from what I saw and heard in this Opus Arte video at least, he makes a powerful impersonation of what must be one of the most lustful characters in the history of opera, and he does so with unquestionable results; he not only does look the part, but sings it remarkably well as well. I did find the other important male singers rather low in volume, perhaps more than they should, the two Ismailovs as well as the drunken priest; they are in a league certainly different from Ms Westbroek's. And let's not leave aside the chorus's outstanding contribution.
So in all, a most remarkable result, with the utterly realistic sound one has come to expect from the house and the very apt and interesting supplementary material that has contributed to place Opus Arte above most other publishers of opera on DVD (and miles away from US publishers such as Image or Kultur, whose in this respect very mediocre products tend to reach our shelves this side of the Atlantic more often than Europe-based ones like Opus Arte, Bel Air Classiques or Arthaus Musik)."
Why change the ending?
Marc Musnick | 03/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One of my problems with this production is the revisionist ending.
Now that there are no longer satellite countries, I guess since this is updated to modern times, the treck to Siberia in the last scene would be unbelievable but the ending is jarring for all the wrong reasons.
The staging is effective but odd. The first half taking place within a glass enclosed box obviously representing Katerina's entrapment as the bride of a impotent man. Wooden walls line the back of the stage and the wings. The production is stark. A huge wow for Eva-Marie Westbroek as Katerina. She has a voice similar to the young Eva Marton, which is saying a lot. It's a huge sound and beautiful too. Ventris repeats his Sergei here. His voice is growing darker but he's looking bloated and fat. What is a sexy and dangerous looking performance in the other DVD version, becomes seedy here.
The orchestra and chorus dominate this performance. I wanted to love this, the opera is one of my favorites, but it's too odd and gimickey for my tastes.
There's also a tracking problem on the second DVD. It's not my player because this does not happen with the other DVDs that were apart of my order.
Magnificent playing, singinging, acting and sound
Dr. J. J. Kregarman | Denver, Colorado United States | 02/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is now my third DVD of Lady Macbeth, an opera which I would rank among the very best of all 20th century operas and of all Russian operas. Its strong points are very strong indeed. The musical performance as led by Mariss Jansons is outstanding and there are no disturbingly weak links among the singers/actors. All leading performers deserve the wild applause they receive at the opera's end. And the sound on this DVD is magnificent. There is only one possible fly in the ointment and that is one's ability (or inability) to go along with Martn Kusej's stage direction. Sex and murder were done well and only in the last act - set in some kind of asylum or jail - did what was going on stage (people wandering around in their underwear) seem at odds with what was going on in the opera itself (prisoners marching off to Siberia). Otherwise I do not think the production gets in the way of the drama. With repeated listening - and this production deserves repeated listening - I think its musical strengths will win out over any questions."
Joseph A. Meeker | Glendale, AZ USA | 03/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After listening to Rostropovich's EMI rendition I knew I would take an interest in a stage production. The cover of this DVD version is a little misleading and so are some of the critical remarks: This show isn't about a complete sex act so much as it is about the tragedy of the misdirection of a passion. The whole production is startlingly abstract in sets and action; the glass box as the setting for Katerina's home was an outstanding idea; the ghosts walking vertically was a startling addendum; the final scenes realize what I had until then considered an impossible barrier to staging: abjection of the prisoners, the desertion of Katerina by Sergei, the murder of Sonya (and how else could you depict a drowning on stage?), the last lamentations floating over the sentries and their dogs. Really, really cathartic."