Until recently, few theaters in Moscow dared to touch Dmitry Shostakovich's opera, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" because of the pointed sexuality of the heroine. In fact, the last time the opera appeared was in 1936. Legend has it that Stalin himself sat in the audience, and that several days later the Russian newspaper Pravda ran a story headlined "Chaos Instead of Music." The review was an immediate death sentence for the opera in Russia.
Celebrating the theater's 10th anniversary, Helikon-Opera shook the dust off the scores and decided to stage the long avoided opera back in the motherland.
The story line is simple. A woman falls in love with one of the workers in her house, then kills her husband and father-in-law on the path to realizing her true love. Only instead of taking place in the 19th century, the scene has fast forwarded to modern day times.
Despite his reputation for producing unusual and sometime iconoclastic interpretation, Helikon's artistic director Dmitry Bertman's unusual, sometimes iconoclastic interpretations, went overboard with this performance. He replaced a horse stable with a modern gym hall, the wedding party with a club event, and a tie replaced a belt as the instrument to strangle the wicked Zinovy Borisovich, Katherine's husband.
In short, Lady Macbeth was made into a "new Russian" opera. With all its diversity of colors and urbanization, the play provides little clarity concerning whether Katherine is a saint or a sinner or whether she is forgiven for her love or cursed.
Kudos goes to Anna Kazakova, who plays Katherine, to Vladimir Ponkin, the theater's conductor and to Vladimir Ognev, who plays Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov, Katherine's father-in-law and the first victim of the infatuated heroine.
The show is almost, but not completely lost. Although the restaging is not convincing, the fact that this was the first time this opera was staged since 1936 is enough to applaud in and of itself.
19 Bol. Nikitskaya Ul.