Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Larissa Gogolevskaya
06 Feb 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District (Kirov Opera)

The Kirov Opera and Orchestra concluded their annual residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last week with a Sunday matinee concert performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1932 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District.

Dmitri Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District

Kirov Opera, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, 4 February 2007

 

Even unstaged, this powerful and disturbing work filled with scenes of rape, humiliation, corruption, and murder felt almost too overwhelming to sit through. Speculations of political pressure aside, it was not difficult to imagine, after being a member of the audience, why the middle-aged composer would have felt compelled to rewrite the work, curbing the raw violence of his X-rated early masterpiece down to at least a PG-13 rating (the new version, renamed Katerina Ismailova after the main character and premiered in 1963, was reportedly the composer’s favorite).

Conducted with savage intensity by maestro Gergiev, the Kirov Orchestra proved itself once again one of the premiere ensembles in the world today, operatic or otherwise. Even the premium-seat dwellers, well-schooled in the social etiquette that forbids applause until the end of the piece (or in this case, until the intermission), erupted spontaneously into an ovation after the breathtaking rendition of the 2nd tableau interlude. The conductor simply refused to hold his orchestra back to accommodate the singers, and the power of volume alone was truly earth-shattering – exactly the kind of effect Shostakovich’s uncompromising music demands. To their credit, both the excellent chorus and most of the soloists withstood the competition admirably. Unlike the previously reviewed Il Viaggio a Reims, which was a vehicle for the relative novices at the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers, this production involved the premiere forces of the venerable Kirov stage. Larisa Gogolevskaya was spectacular as Katerina the kupchikha (merchant’s wife), the only character in a cartoonish parade of degenerates for whom, despite three murders in a space of four acts, the composer allows his listener to feel any sympathy. Her gut-wrenching rendition of the Act 4 arioso is worth a special mention, as are her confrontation scenes with her bully of a father-in-law Boris Timofeevich. Unfortunately, Alexei Tanovitski in the latter role was not perhaps the best partner for Gogolevskaya: despite an attractive sound and some good acting that won him approval of the audience, his voice lacked the sheer strength necessary to match (and often overpower) Katerina and, in this particular case, also to hold his own against the orchestra. Among secondary characters, Liubov Sokolova was a gorgeously trashy Sonyetka, while an operatic veteran Gennady Bezzubenkov deserved his applause as both a thoughtful Old Convict, and as a lecherous Priest whose profundo register drew gasps from the hall.

Indeed, quite a few characters created by the singers made one long to see the opera staged, but none more so than the two leading tenors of the production, Evgeny Akimov as Katerina’s husband, Zinovy Borisovich, and Viktor Lutsiuk as her lover, Sergei. At the beginning, it made little sense to me that Lutsiuk would be given the role of Sergei, who as a mock operatic lover does a lot of powerful singing throughout the opera, while Akimov, an obviously stronger singer, would be cast as Zinovy, a weakling who barely gets two scenes in before being dispatched into the next world (and down into the cellar) by his wife. As the production progressed, however, I came to appreciate this brilliant piece of operatic casting. Lutsiuk’s Sergei was deliciously disgusting; his voice, figure, gestures, and facial expressions virtually oozed slime. Meanwhile, having Akimov, a powerhouse tenor with a ringing metallic timbre, portray an insecure, impotent, pathetic little man brought forth an equally delicious irony of all style and no substance.

The performance of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District closed a rather unusual tour for the Kirov this year: the company eschewed heavy Russian drama for two Italian comedies, Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims and Verdi’s Falstaff. While the Shostakovich provided a taste of the former, the tour as a whole reminds us once again that the Kirov is capable of much more than the Philips Russian opera recordings, great as they are. Indeed, Gergiev’s troupe seems determined lately to defy any possibility of being viewed as an example of parochial exotica, and wants to be seen instead as the first-class European opera theater that it is. Whether or not one loves their Italian (or their German, for that matter – speaking of the Cardiff production of the Ring Cycle reviewed recently on this site), the Kirov is no longer just a “Russian theater.” As a new resident of the Washington DC area, I look forward to whatever the next five years of the company’s residency here bring. And of course, I will keep you posted!

Olga Haldey

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):