This opera in four acts by Dmitri Shostakovich is based on an original story by Nikolai S. Leskov written in 1865. The action takes place in Mtsensk immediately before the Revolution in October 1917. The Ismailov family ar... more »e rich landowners, and the household consists of Boris, who rules the house in a typically patriarchal manner, his weak son, Zinovy, and Zinovy's wife, Katerina. When Zinovy is away on business, Katherine starts an intense affair with the new farm hand, Sergei, which threatens their entire way of life in this powerful, passionate opera. This filmed opera by director Petr Weigl features the vocals of famed Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya as Katerina, a role written by Shostakovich expressly for her, and music conducted by her husband, Mstislav Rostropovich.« less
Frank Dudley Berry, Jr. | Mountain View, Ca USA | 02/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This performance is not original, but based on an abbreviated version of the Rostropovich/Vishnevskaya recording, the only one available. This score is one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century, a magnificent work. The movie brings it down to 100 minutes, presumably for manageable length. Anyone expecting to hear the whole score is going to be disappointed, but so what? This is not an opera that is frequently performed even in opera houses, so I'm grateful to the director for what there is. Time Magazine, reviewing the opera at its Met premiere in 1934, referred to the music in the love/rape scenes as `pornophony'. The director certainly got that right. The prudish or the parents of a muscially gifted minor should be warned that these scenes leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. As both actors are attractive and the action is indicated in the music (Time was absolutely right), I found these scenes appropriate and interesting, as well as erotic. The negative occurs in the staging of the finale. These must be the best dressed, most humanely treated Siberian exiles in history. No chains, no prison garb, none of the degradation of mind and spirit that motivates the heroine's suicide. The criticism here is precisely the opposite of the praise of the intimate scenes, that the staging and music do not match. All the more puzzling, as the scene is set out of doors and realism could have been easily achieved. All in all, people who like the opera, who are fascinated by Shostakovich, or who simply want an approachable version of an masterpiece should have this disc. You're not likely to get another, and what's good in it is very good. The reviewer above who described this work musically as mediocre is not worthy of credence. Even the edited version here is musically superb."
Ready for Soft-Core Shostakovich?
davidhanddotnet | San Francisco, California | 10/12/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This disc is not for everyone, but it may be just the thing for some. What's not clear until you pop it in the player is that the audio is essentially just the 1979 (?) Rostropovich/Vishnevskaya recording of the opera, so if you leave the TV off you essentially have a one-disc copy of that recording ... which I didn't, and so I am delighted with it on that basis alone. Turn on the set however, and things get wild. Director Petr Weigl has taken a cast of Czechs who may or may not have musical backgrounds, including a voluptuous and otherwise easy-on-the-eyes heroine, and had them lip-synch along with the recording in costume and on sets suggesting pre-Revolutionary Russia. The lip-synching isn't quite as laughable as some of the old Godzilla movies, but it's not always completely accurate and convincing, either. Added to that is the fact that Vishnevskaya's dusky, mature voice seems to be inappropriate to the twentysomething girl from whom it is supposedly emanating. But of course, none of that matters as soon as the sex gets started. I've never seen this opera staged, but I imagine that the ravishing is more "suggested" in the theatre, whereas here it's simulated explicitly, if not clinically, with lots of nudity and thrashing about. I'm reluctant to speculate about whether the late composer would have been more amused or annoyed by this video, probably dismissing it in either case as tasteless; more interesting is the question of what his still-very-much-alive close friends, Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, Galina Vishnevskaya, might make of it."
Hot & Cold
Brad Bombardier | Duluth, MN, USA | 09/15/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I found this video, of actors lip-synching to the Vishnevskaya/Rostropovich recording of the opera, to be very interesting in a number of ways, but also a bit disappointing. On the plus side, the actors are certainly not shy, with full frontal nudity of both men and women in the crucial sex scenes, which are energetic, to say the least. Katerina, the central character of the opera, is gorgeous, and emotes very well. On the minus side, the translations given in the subtitles are not always reliable, with some translations actually giving an opposite meaning to the sung text. There are large cuts, as the film runs only 100 minutes, but interest is maintained throughout. I thought the ending was anticlimactic in the extreme, and was somewhat disappointed. Overall, the film is a must for devoted fans of Dmitri Shostakovich, but I am still waiting for a definitive filmed version, which I believe we all deserve!"
Weigl is wonderful
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 08/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been an unabashed fan of Petr Weigl even since I obtained his productions of "Eugene Onegin", "The Turn of the Screw", "A Village Romeo and Juliet" in VHS format (all, alas, delisted).Cinematic interpretations of operas are, I believe, another artistic approach to these works. Even the live performance recordings come close to this freedom with elaborate sets and camera play. Admittedly Weigl tends to abridge and perhaps offends the purists, but he does end up with a very tight production. (After all, even in live productions, cuts are often made -- sometimes for no greater reason than to avoid paying overtime. Opera is theatre and Weigl brings it all to life. His actors all look the part, can really act, and do more than lip-synch -- they sing on the set, although their voices are not used. Most importantly, he has a great sense of setting, costumes, and camera angles.Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk is a very vivid, emotional, opera. I understand that Shostakovitch planned it to be the first of three about the plight of Russian women through the ages. Unfortunately, Stalin had a hissy fit and Shostakovitch wrote no more operas.This production does great justice to the work. I cannot recommend it highly enough."
Wonderful opera! Unacceptable cuts!
Prof Doutor Diogo Pais | Lisboa - Portugal | 09/23/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Shostakovitch's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is a masterpiece. A previous movie had been made of it, less effective than this one. Petr Weigl film is nice to watch but has a major drawback: more than 50 minutes of the score are cut. Whichever may have been the rationale for such choice, it is hardly understandable. Due to some of the cuts, the sequence of the plot even becomes somewhat strange because you feel that something must surely be missing in the action. Leaving out scenes like the Boris' ghost scene is unforgivable - this scene clearly shows that Katerina is haunted by the spirit of the man she killed (establishing the connection with Shakespeare's Macbeth and Verdi's opera). So, to me, due maily to the cuts but also to some dubious director's choices, this movie rates very low. Unfortunate, but true, considering that it could easily have been otherwise. Respecting the whole score, for instance, would have done a much better job."