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Opera in four acts and nine scenes (Original edition 1930-32)
Libretto by Dmitri D. Shostakovich and Alexander G. Preis, based on Nikolai S. Leskov (1864)
First performed January 22 1934, little Academy Opera House, Leningrad
Sung in Russian with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks, in German, begin in the Holzfoyer half an hour before performances begin
Nikolai S. Leskov wrote his novel Lady Macbeth aus dem Bezirk Mtsensk in 1864, three years after the abolition of serfdom in Russia. When Shostakovich took up the subject in 1934 for his second opera, its success was sweeping. The composer drew on the fate of the businessman's wife Katerina Ismailova to underline the differences between the classes. Katerina's revolt begins when she enters a relationship with Sergei, one of the employers, while her husband is away. When her father-in-law Boris gets wind of this, she poisons him. When her husband returns and catches the lovers, he is got out of the way too. But the murders are discovered and the couple arrested on their wedding day. On the journey to a Siberian prison camp Katerina ends it all, taking Sonetika, Sergei's lover, with her...
When Stalin saw the opera two years after the world premiere he had an article published in Pravda, sharply attacking the composer and his work with the nasty headline »Chaos instead of Music«. Shostakovich, fearing for his life, went into internal emigration. But his exciting Lady Macbeth, in which the crude portrayal of Katerina's unbearable life is combined with outbreaks of ecsatic sensual lust and lyric moments, allows us to see deep into her heart and is performed, all over the world.
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