Opera Review: Macbeth OF Mtsensk

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was a critic’s despair – leaving him with nothing but favorable comments to write.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk_311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk_311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, performed by the Israeli Opera in a co-production with the Kirov Opera, was a critic’s despair – leaving him with nothing but favorable comments to write.
Uncompromisingly depressing though this opera is, from the unhappy beginning to the unhappy end, it is also a profoundly moving human tragedy, describing the heroine- murderess not only as evil but also as a predominantly hopeless, desperate, emotionally starved victim. The opera’s sardonic social criticism still increases the sympathy and compassion with her despair.
Irina Molostova’s direction and George Tsypin’s sets were uncommonly imaginative. Abstract modular elements were strategically moved around as the situations required. Sergei and Katerina’s bedroom scene discreetly left room for imagination – though not too much.
The singers were a joy to hear and to behold. In the title role, Anna Shefanjinskaya excelled with her clear and flexible soprano, hard and determined, yet also ingratiatingly soft and soulful in her genuinely moving expression of her hopeless disappointment with her family life, her passionate love scenes with Sergei and her pre-suicide aria.
As Sergei, Roman Muravitsky’s tenor sounded macho and assertive, yet also so seductive and irresistible that one could well understand Katerina’s yielding to him time and again.
Vladimir Braun’s rich bass-baritone conveyed the family-tyrant Boris just as unpleasantly as this repulsive character should appear.
In the roles of the Priest and the Old Convict, Vladimir Matorin made the dream of a pitch-dark Russian bass come true.
The Israel Opera Chorus sounded perfectly accurate, and impressively imparted the plot’s strong emotions.
Conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion expressed the work’s emphatic contrasts, abundant tone colors and dramatic climaxes.