The first performance of this opera took place in 1934, Leningrad(St Petersburg). It was considered a work of genius in the Soviet Union. The work was also played overseas. Early in 1936 Stalin saw a performance and considered it perverse sexually. Then an editoral in Pravda,the Soviet paper, condemned the opera as "Muddle instead of music". It is believed that the editorial was written by Stalin, or he was behind the attack. Shostakovich was now in fear of his life. At the time, thousands of people including his relatives were disappearing, killed by Stalins minions. The composer withdrew the opera and his forth symphony, which was not seen again in the Soviet union for another thirty years. His 4th to 9th Symphonies the composer considered his tombstones. How he survived Stalin, I suggest you get hold of the DVD, a documentary called Shostakovich against Stalin, the war symphonies.Music conducted by Valery Gergiev.
The staging and dress is traditional . Set in a barn like structure, which eventually becomes a bridge and camping area. Set in late 19th century Czarist Russia, about a rich Merchant who often leaves his wife,who finds a lover because of being bored. She kills the father in law, and both the lover and she murder the husband. His body is found and they are caught. On the way to Siberia,the lover falls for another woman. Katerina the wife, pushes the other women into the water and she jumps in, and they both drown. Rather depressing you might think. The opera has sardonic humour. The conductor James Conlon, an American,brings out the tensions,the raw sexual under currents, emotion and lyrical side of the score. His tempo are brisk and with his Italian Orchestra,bring out the true Russian flavour. Katerina, the merchants wife, Jeanne-Michele Chabonnet, is a dramatic soprano. She could be considered a near mezzo, because of her low notes.She makes you feel sorry for her plight. I wonder why I have never heard of her. She is brilliant in this part. All the singers are good, including Vladimir Vaneev as Boris, the father in law, Vsevolod Grivnov as the husband and Sergej Kunaev as Sergei,the lover. There are no weaknesses in this performance. Also, traditionalists should have no fears about the performance. The sexuality is there, but the director Lev Dodin takes the view that less is more.He does not take any liberties with the stage directions.The reviewer who criticized this performance obviously was watching another opera.
I was simply overwhelmed by this performance. Blown away. Emotionally drained. Wow!
I used a Denon DX1000DB Bluray mini system, which had two speakers,but because of a new invention gives you surround sound. You can use earphones. New to Australia, cost here 1,500 Aus dollars. Region Worldwide. PCM stereo. DTS-HD Master Audio 7.I. 1O80 full HD. Format 16.9.