Here's a great example of why I pay far more attention to Amazon's readers' reviews these days than those of the self-styled experts in the British music press.
I've known, and loved, the Rostropovich recording of this work for years, but hesitated to buy this DVD after reading a dismissive review in the Gramophone. Then I read some favourable readers' reviews on the various Amazon websites and took the plunge.
Musically and visually, this is a superb performance. Acting, singing, staging is all spot on. Christopher Ventris and Nadine Secunde in the leading roles look exactly right and are completely inside their roles, Secunde the neglected, frustrated and bored wife of a rich man, Ventris the incurable skirt-chaser. Anatoli Kotcherga is brilliant as the coarse, boorish father-in-law of Katerina, a tour-de-force of a performance. Amongst the lesser roles Graham Clark as the Shabby Peasant and Juha Kotilainen as the Chief of Police deserve special mention for both their singing and acting, and of course there's Yevgeny Nesterenko in the cameo part of the Old Convict, thunderous of voice if somewhat underpowered in the acting department.
This ending, with Katerina staring into the auditorium stunned with misery, isn't quite what Shostakovich had in mind but it works beautifully and you're in no doubt as to what her next action will be as the curtain drops. Throughout the opera, Anissimov and the Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu play magnificently, giving us that authentic, spectral, Shostakovich sound, ably abetted by a strong chorus. Staging is representative rather than realistic, and very thought-provoking. I love what's been done with the interludes, on-stage mimes highlighting and commenting on the action.Read more ›
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Keep the children away; this is definitely R rated. I had heard but not seen Lady Macbeth before and was impressed. Here I am overwhelmed. My flesh crawled the last ten minutes and I finished beyond tears. This is definitely one of the five great 20th century operas. That Stalin scared Shostakovich out of opera over this counts as one of his crimes against humanity. This production takes a couple liberties with the original including the ending but makes its case powerfully. Nadine Secunde embodies Katerina in all her boredom, longing, oppression and finally despair. Her final frozen paralysis will linger with me a long time. Christopher Ventris resembles a svelt Alec Baldwin. He oozes sex. How often can you say that of a tenor? No wonder Katerina falls for him. And his betrayal of her is numbing. There is not a weak link in singing or acting throughout the huge cast. Anissimov conducts a slow performance in comparison with Rostropovich and Myung on CD (almost half an hour longer), but it does not seem slow. Indeed the production has an inevitable undertow toward disaster from the start. If you do not see this performance you are missing a milestone in 20th century opera. True there seems to be something fishy about the sound at times, as was the case in the company's Hamlet, but that is a minor irritation.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
SuperlativeFeb. 26 2005
Archie (Ottawa Canada)
- Published on Amazon.com
I have long been a great fan of Petr Weigl, and gave his production of Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk 5 stars. At the time I thought that no live production could surpass it as a dramatic musical performance. I was wrong.
I bought this production because I am also a fan of Nadine Secunde and would have been prepared to overlook a few weak performances just to see what she could do with this musically and dramatically demanding role. As it turned out, not only does she do a superlative job, but so does the rest of the cast and orchestra.
Although the theatrical set could never be as good as that of the Weigl cinema production, the versatility of it and the lighting were more than appropriate and enhanced the drama. In addition, this production as all the bits that Weigl edited out.
I found the sound and the vision of the DVD very good indeed.
What with multiple camera angles and close-ups, sensitive editing has the ability to enhance the theatrical experience. This production certainly does that.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Check second opinionOct. 14 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
Let me leave the performance of this live recording to a later time...
I have to say that I totally DISAGREE with the previous reviewer in terms of the audio and video quality of this DVD release. On my system, the audio quality is absolutely 1st rate. No matter I used LPCM or dts5.1 for the reproduction. The sound stage and sound clarity is beautifully captured, with adequate dynamic, especially in the climax in ACT2. The video quality is first rate for today's DVD standard. (Of course, it can not compare with 1080i resultion of satellite broadcast). The lighting on stage is a matter of taste, but for most part, I think the major roles on stage are more than adequately spot-lighted. And just as a refernce data, the transport stream quatity on this DVD is close to the upper bound (mostly beyond 9 mb/s)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Don't rate a DVD by its coverAug. 31 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
The first staged version of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to be issued on DVD, this 2002 two-disc video from Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu features an energetic performance by Christopher Ventris as the snake Sergey, strong singing by Nadine Secunde in the title role, a luxury cameo appearance by legendary Russian bass Yevgeny Nesterenko, and a rather lurid cover photo of Ventris planted between Secunde's legs.
Sadly, that one shot, taken in passing, does not typify the Liceu production and is as close as this show comes to the heat and heart of Lady Macbeth.
I say sadly not because I'm a fan of gratuitous sex and violence, but because those elements are not merely integral to the opera whose libretto Shostakovich himself helped write -- they're vital.
Many people are more familiar with the historical events surrounding Lady Macbeth than are familiar with the opera itself. After premiering in 1934 in Moscow and in Leningrad, Lady Macbeth racked up a record over the next two years that's darn nigh impossible to imagine a new opera achieving today. It received 83 sold-out performances in Moscow, nearly 100 in Leningrad, and reached the stages of London, Stockholm, Zürich, Copenhagen, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, New York, and Cleveland.
Enter Stalin, stage left.
On Jan. 26, 1936, the Great Leader went to the opera, didn't like what he saw, and marched out of his Bolshoi box in high dudgeon, full entourage in his wake. Two days later, the state newspaper Pravda condemned Lady Macbeth and its composer in a front-page editorial ordered, of course, by Stalin. Ironically, for the butcher he was, Stalin pretended to be shocked by the opera's violence. And though he could order millions to death with a Wotan-like wave of his hand, Stalin was a prude about sex. Which mattered little to Shostakovich at this point. Declared an Enemy of the People, he feared for his life. Lady Macbeth, of course, soon disappeared.
From watching the Liceu production, you might wonder what the fuss was all about.
What we are given here, at a slogging pace, is a sanitized version that literally covers up the sexual encounters and lessens the violence that are necessary for the portrayal of the heroine, Katerina Ismailova. Without the full effect of Katerina's adultery and murders being presented, what should be Graham Clark's comic relief as a counterpart to the drunken porter in Shakespeare's Macbeth flops because there's nothing for Clark to play off of.
Furthermore, at least two production decisions mar the proceedings. Inexplicably, a section from the first movement of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6 is added between Acts III and IV. The accompanying scene adds nothing but time to a performance that already moves too slowly. More importantly, instead of drowning herself in despair at the opera's end, Lady Macbeth simply sits staring at the audience as the curtain falls.
Neither the packaging nor the technical aspects of the Barcelona release recommend it. The flimsy insert gives the cast and what tracks can be accessed, but not a word about the opera or its performers. In contrast, the 32-page booklet in the 2006 production of Lady Macbeth from Amsterdam Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk [Blu-ray] provides essays and a host of glossy photos. In addition, the picture from Barcelona is often grainy or blurry. The sound is worse -- sometimes shrill, sometimes overly reverberant, frequently shifting its focus from too distant to too close. The Barcelona DVDs include no extras, whereas the Amsterdam set has a 65-minute documentary film, The Tragedy of Katerina Ismailova, by Reiner E. Moritz that includes interviews with stage director Martin Kusej, conductor Mariss Jansons -- who has a complete cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies to his credit and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at his disposal -- and leading members of the cast.
Ventris would go on to improve his Sergey in the more vigorous Amsterdam production, which stars a dynamic Eva-Maria Westbroek. If you can take Lady Macbeth undiluted, that's the one to go for.
One of the most moving opera productions ever madeAug. 14 2013
Flavio Jose Morsch
- Published on Amazon.com
In my opinion Lady Macbeth in Mtsensk is te best opera written after Wozzeck. We have here 20th century modernism without dodecafonism, nor other "heavy" maneirisms. Between Webern and present minimalist "light" composers, we are glad to have had Prokofiev and Shostakovitch, who may be the best legacy from Soviet Union.
This opera is a breathtaking drama, modern however tuneful, perfectly adequate by music-libretto means, as if it was composed by R. Strauss without his romanticism.
We cannot avoid to compare Liceu-Anissimov 2004 version with Amsterdam- Jansons 2006 one. Both of them have Ventris, more beefy in 2006, when we see also more nudity, should we like to be helped to realize Stalin s statement about "musical pornography". Both of them , at "grand finale", disguise the two drowned women unto an asfixiating murder, due to easier scenography of course. The last act has some 8 minutes more in Liceu version, with a contemplative, thrilling,tragic,terrific glaze by N Secunde. I've never seen such an emotional-cinematographic scene since Boehm-Goetz Friedrich-Astrid Varnay Elektra and Salome. Beside, we have here nobody less than legendary Nesterenko as the Old Convict. Economic,metaphoric and ironic directions rule both versions. May be Janson s conducting is even better than excellent Anissimov's in Barcelona. May be Eva Westbroek is a bit more sexy than Nadine Secunde.
Nevertheless, as an amazing spectacle, as a "sense of occasion", we get here in Liceu an unforgettable night. Yes, there are liberties, there is an over mordacity, may be intending to overcome Leskov towards Gogol or even Solzhenitsyn. We know nowadays Shosta has been a veiled "enfant terrible" to Soviet regime. Surely, Stalin's rebuke was not just due to eroticism, but because comparision of Tsarist regime with Soviet regime is inevitable. Well, if you like the old Shosta, modern opera "ma non troppo", this is a must. My congratulations to Catalunia, which declares an Iberic culture can give World such a gorgeous Slavonic opera.