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Dmitri Schostakovich

Lady Macbeth of yhe Mtsensk District

Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - Jansons (Part 1)

Eva-Maria Westbroek - Katerina Lvovna Ismailova
Christopher Ventris - Sergey
Vladimir Vaneev - Boris Timofeyevich Ismailov & Old Convict
Ludovít Ludha - Zinovy Borisovich Ismailov
Carole Wilson - Aksinya & Femme prisonnière
Alexandre Kravets - Shabby Peasant
Nikita Storojev - Chief of Police
Alexander Vassiliev - Priest & Guard
Valentin Jar - Teacher
Lani Poulson - Sonyetk

Netherlands Opera Chorus
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra 
Mariss Jansons, conductor 

Live recording. Amsterdam, 2006

Lady Macbeth of Msensk La Plata 2010 Prod Marcelo Lombardero

Lady Macbeth of Msensk - Helsinki - 2017

Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (Russian: Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, or Ledi Makbet Mtsenskogo uyezda) is an opera in four acts and nine scenes by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), his Opus 29. The libretto, jointly written by Alexander Preys and the composer, is based on the novel of the same name by Nikolai Leskov. 

Dedicated by Shostakovich to his first wife, physicist Nina Varzar, the roughly 160-minute opera was first performed on 22 January 1934 at the Leningrad Maly Operny, and on 24 January 1934 in Moscow. It incorporates elements of expressionism and verismo, telling the story of a lonely woman in 19th-century Russia who falls in love with one of her husband's workers and is driven to murder.

Despite early success on popular and official levels, Lady Macbeth became the vehicle for a general denunciation of Shostakovich's music by the Communist Party in early 1936: after being condemned in an anonymous article (sometimes attributed to Joseph Stalin) in Pravda, it was famously banned in the Soviet Union for almost thirty years, until 1961. Many people in fact know about the opera due to its place in the history of censorship.

The composer in 1962 revised Lady Macbeth, renaming it Katerina Izmailovaand assigning his Opus 114. He replaced two of its intermezzos, adjusted Act 1 Scene 3, and made smaller changes elsewhere. Katerina Izmailova was first performed on 26 December 1962 in Moscow at the Stanislavsky-Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre, and first given a studio recording in 1964. But since Shostakovich's death the original version has been more often performed.



Opera in four acts and nine scenes by Dmitri Shostakovich.
The libretto by Alexander Preys and the composer,
is based on the novel of the same name by Nikolai Leskov. 

Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov, a Merchant    high bass    
Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov, his son    tenor    
Katerina Lvovna Izmailova, wife of Zinoviy Borisovich    soprano  
Sergei, a workman employed at the Izmailovs    tenor    
Aksinya, a workwoman employed at the Izmailovs    soprano    
Tattered peasant (Village Drunk)    baritone    
Workman, employed at the Izmailovs    tenor    
a workman employed at the Izmailovs    bass    
a workman employed at the Izmailovs    bass    
First Workman, employed at the Izmailovs    tenor    
Second Workman, employed at the Izmailovs    tenor    
Priest    bass 
Police Inspector    bass
Local Nihilist    tenor    
Policeman    bass    
Old Convict    bass    
Sonyetka, a convict    contralto
A female convict    soprano    
Sergeant    bass    
Sentry    bass    
Ghost of Boris Timofeyevich    bass 
Chorus: SATB, divided parts –
Workmen and women employed at the Izmailovs;
Policemen; Wedding guests; male and female convicts

Time: 19th century 
Place: Russia
Premiere cast, 22 January 1934

A production of the Helikon Opera Moscow
at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in December 2014,staged by Dmitry Bertman


Katerina Ismailova:


Soprano. Wife of Zinovy Ismailov, whose father, Boris, lusts after her. While her husband is working away from home, she falls in love with the new family servant, Sergei. Her father‐in‐law finds out they are having an affair and she poisons him. When her husband returns and whips her, she and Sergei kill him and put his body in the cellar. During the festivities prior to her marriage to Sergei, the body is discovered and they confess their crime. On the road to Siberia, Sergei is attracted by another convict. Jealous, Katerina pushes the girl off a bridge into the river and jumps in to her own death. Created (1934) by A. I. Sokolova.


Zinovy Ismailov:


Tenop. Son of Boris and husband of Katerina. While he is away, she falls in love with the servant. When he returns and whips her, she and her lover kill him and hide his body in the cellar. Created (1934) by Stepan Balashov.

Design - Lady Macbeth of Msensk - Helsinki - 2017

Boris Ismailov:


Bass. A merchant, whose son, Zinovy, is married to Katerina. Boris wants her for himself and when he discovers she is having an affair with one of the servants, Katerina kills him by putting rat‐poison in mushrooms, his favourite food. Created (1934) by Georgy Orlov.



Tenor. A young servant in the employ of the Ismailov household. He and Katerina fall in love. Her jealous father‐ in‐law finds out and she poisons him. Her husband returns and whips her. When her father‐in‐law's body is found, Katerina and Sergei confess their guilt and are arrested. On the road to Siberia, Sergei is attracted by a young girl convict. Jealous, Katerina pushes her off a bridge into the river, before drowning herself. Created (1934) by Pyotr Zasetsky.



Soprano. Cook in the Ismailov household. Creator (1934) not traced.




Contralto. A young convict killed by Katerina Ismailova, jealous when her lover showed interest in the girl. Created (1934) by Nadezhda Welter.

Katerina Izmailova - Vishnevskaya - Shostakovich - 1966



Scene 1: Katerina's room

Katerina is unhappily married to Zinovy, a provincial flour-merchant. She complains to herself of her loneliness. Her father-in-law Boris, angered at her attitude in response to his saying that mushrooms are his favourite dish, says it is her fault for not producing an heir. She replies that Zinovy cannot give her a child – which Boris disdains; he then threatens her if she decides to seduce some youthful lover. Zinovy is called away on business, and Boris – against his son's inclinations – makes Katerina swear before icon to be faithful. A servant, Aksinya, tells Katerina about the womanising new clerk, Sergei.

Scene 2: The Izmailovs' yard

Sergei and his comrades are sexually harassing Aksinya. Katerina intervenes. She berates him for his machismo and asserts that women are as brave and capable as men. Sergei is willing to prove her wrong and they wrestle; she is thrown down and Sergei falls on top of her. Boris appears. She says that she tripped and Sergei in trying to help her, fell down also. The other peasants back her up. Boris however is suspicious and roars at the peasants, telling them to get back to work before ordering Katerina to fry some mushrooms for him and threatening to tell Zinovy all about her behaviour.

Scene 3: Katerina's room

Katerina prepares to go to bed. Sergei knocks on her door with the excuse that he wants to borrow a book because he cannot sleep, but Katerina has none; she cannot read. As she is about to close the door he continues attempting to seduce her by remembering their wrestling match earlier that day. He gets into the room and forces himself on her. After this is done, she tells him to leave, but he refuses and she agrees to embark on an affair with him. Boris knocks on the door and confirms that Katerina is in bed and locks her in. Sergei is trapped in the room, and the two make love.

Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Rostropovich. (Part 1 of 3)
Mstislav Rostropovich (conductor)
Svetlana Dobronravova
Christopher Ventris
Valery Gilmanov
Alexandre Krawetz
Olga Pchelintseva
Julian Rodescu
Teatro Real. Madrid. February 1st, 2000.

The third painting depicts a wild party or orgy underway at a brothel. The prostitutes are stealing the drunken Tom's watch. On the floor at bottom right is a night watchman's staff and lantern-souvenirs of Tom's "Wild Night" on the town. The scene takes place at the Rose Tavern, a famous brothel in Covent Garden. The prostitutes have black spots on their faces to cover syphilitic sores.


Scene 4: The yard

One night a week later. Boris, unable to sleep due to unease about thieves being on the prowl, is walking in the courtyard in the pre-dawn darkness. He, remembering his own youthful days as a rake and knowing Zinovy's low libido, is considering seducing Katerina himself to fulfill his son's marital duties. He spots Sergei climbing out of Katerina's window. He catches him and publicly whips him as a burglar, then has him locked up. Katerina witnesses this but cannot stop him because she remains locked in her room. When finally she manages to climb down the eavestrough-drainpipe the other servants restrain her on Boris' order. After being exhausted by beating Sergei, Boris demands some dinner, saying that he will whip Sergei again the next day and dispatches a servant to call Zinovy back, saying that Zinovy to be told that there's trouble at home. Katerina adds rat-poison to some mushrooms and gives them to him. As he is dying, calling for a priest, she retrieves the keys to free Sergei. The priest, called by the arriving morning shift of workers who find Boris in agony, arrives: Boris vainly tries to tell him that he was poisoned and falls back dead pointing at Katerina. Katerina, weeping crocodile tears, convinces him that Boris has accidentally eaten poisonous mushrooms and he says a prayer over Boris' body.

Scene 5: Katerina's room

Katerina and Sergei are together. Sergei querulously says that their affair will have to end due to Zinovy's impending return and wishes he and Katerina could marry – Katerina assures him that they'll marry but refuses to tell him how she'll arrange it. Sergei then falls asleep; Katerina is then tormented by Boris' ghost and cannot sleep. Later she hears Zinovy returning. He has been called back by one of the servants with the news of his father's death. Although Sergei hides, Zinovy sees Sergei's trousers and belt and guesses the truth. As he and Katerina quarrel, he whips her with the belt. Hearing Katerina's cries, Sergei emerges and confronts Zinovy, who then tries to escape and call the servants. Katerina stops Zinovy: she and Sergei then proceed to strangle Zinovy, who's finally finished off by Sergei with a blow on the head with a heavy candlestick. The lovers hide the corpse in the wine-cellar.

Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Rostropovich. (Part 2 of 3)
Mstislav Rostropovich (conductor)
Svetlana Dobronravova
Christopher Ventris
Valery Gilmanov
Alexandre Krawetz
Olga Pchelintseva
Julian Rodescu
Teatro Real. Madrid. February 1st, 2000.


Scene 6: Near the cellar

Following Zinovy's disappearance he has been presumed dead. Katerina and Sergei prepare to get married, but she is tormented by the fact that Zinovy's corpse is hidden in the wine cellar. Sergei reassures her and they leave for the wedding ceremony. A drunken peasant breaks into the cellar, finds Zinovy's body and goes to fetch the police.

Scene 7: The police station

The police are complaining about not being invited to the wedding and vainly try to distract themselves by tormenting a "nihilist" schoolteacher because of atheism when the peasant arrives and gives them the opportunity for revenge.

Scene 8: The Izmailov garden

Everyone is drunk at the wedding. Katerina sees that the cellar door is open, but the police arrive as she and Sergei are trying to escape.

Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Rostropovich. (Part 3 of 3)
Mstislav Rostropovich (conductor)
Svetlana Dobronravova
Christopher Ventris
Valery Gilmanov
Alexandre Krawetz
Olga Pchelintseva
Julian Rodescu
Teatro Real. Madrid. February 1st, 2000.


Scene 9. A temporary convict camp near a bridge

On the way of penal labour to Siberia, Katerina bribes a guard to allow her to meet Sergei. He blames her for everything. After she leaves, Sergei tries to seduce another convict, Sonyetka. She demands a pair of stockings as her price. Sergei tricks Katerina into giving him hers, whereupon he gives them to Sonyetka. Sonyetka and the other convicts taunt Katerina, who pushes Sonyetka into an icy river - also, herself, falling in. They are swept away and the convict train moves on.

Nicolai Leskov "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District"

Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District is an 1865 novella by Nikolai Leskov.

Plot summary

Chapter 1
The Ismailov family is introduced: Boris, the father of Zinovy, the husband of Katerina for the past five years. Boris and Zinovy are merchants, ruling an estate with many peasant-slaves. Katerina is bored in their empty home, and tired of Boris' constant orders and scolding of her for not producing any children. She would actually welcome a child, and Zinovy's previous wife of twenty years fared no better.

Chapter 2
A dam bursts at a mill owned by Boris, and Zinovy leaves town to oversee its repair. Aksinya, the female cook, and Sergei, a newly arrived farmhand, are introduced. Katerina flirts somewhat innocently with Sergei. Aksinya tells Katerina, who has become bored enough to venture out amongst the peasants, of Sergei's reputation as a womanizer.

Chapter 3
Sergei comes into Katerina's room, and after some dialogue about romance, moves to kiss her roughly. She protests at first, but then gives in; after an implied sexual encounter, she tells Sergei to leave because Boris will be coming by to lock her door. He stays, saying he can use the window instead.

Chapter 4
After a week of the continued affair, Boris catches Sergei and accuses him of adultery. Sergei will neither admit nor deny it, so Boris whips him until his own arm hurts from the exertion, and locks Sergei in a cellar. Katerina seems to come alive from her boredom, but Boris threatens to beat her as well when she asks for Sergei's release.

Chapter 5
Katerina poisons Boris, and he is buried in the absence of his son and without suspicion. She then takes charge of the estate and begins to order people around, openly being around Sergei every day.

Chapter 6
Katerina has a strange dream about a cat. Some dialogue occurs with Sergei, which by its end reveals his worry over Zinovy's return and desire to marry her.

Chapter 7
Katerina again dreams of the cat, which this time has Boris's head rather than a cat's. Zinovy returns and takes some time to get around to confronting Katerina with what he has heard about her affair. Finally she calls Sergei in, kisses him in front of her husband, some violence occurs, and the two of them strangle Zinovy.

Chapter 8
Zinovy dies, and Sergei buries him deep in the walls of the cellar where he himself had been kept.

Chapter 9
Some convenient circumstances regarding Zinovy's return shroud his disappearance in mystery, and while there is an inquiry, nothing is found and no trouble comes to Sergei or Katerina. The latter becomes pregnant. Everything seems to be working out for them, until Boris's young nephew Fyodor shows up with his mother, preventing Katerina from inheriting the estate. She has no problem with this and actually makes an effort to be a good aunt, but Sergei complains repeatedly for a time about their misfortune.

Chapter 10
Fyodor falls ill, and Katerina, while tending to him, has a change of heart because of Sergei's earlier complaints.

Chapter 11
Katerina and Sergei suffocate the boy, but a crowd returning from church storms the house, one of its members having spied the act through the shutters of Fyodor's room. Sergei, hearing the windows clattering from the crowd's fists, thinks the ghosts of his murder victims have come back to haunt him, and breaks down.

Chapter 12
Sergei admits to the crime publicly and, in repentance, also tells of where Zinovy is buried and admits to that crime as well. Katerina indifferently admits that she helped with the murders, saying it was all for Sergei. The two are sent to exile in Siberia. During their journey there, Katerina gives birth in a prison hospital, and wants nothing to do with their child.

Chapter 13
The child is sent to be raised by Fyodor's mother and becomes heir to the Ismailov estate. Katerina continues to be obsessed with Sergei, who increasingly wants nothing to do with her. Fiona and "little Sonya," two members of the prison convoy with Katerina and Sergei, are introduced, the former being known for being sexually prolific, the latter the opposite.

Chapter 14
Sergei is caught by Katerina being intimate with Fiona. Katerina is mortified, but seeing Fiona's indifference to the whole situation, reaches something approaching cordiality with Fiona by writing her off. Sergei then pursues little Sonya, who will not sleep with him unless he gives her a pair of stockings. He then complains to Katerina about his ankle-cuffs. She, being happy that he is talking to her again, readily gives him her last pair of new stockings to ease his pain, which he then gives to Sonya in return for sexual favours.

Chapter 15
Katerina sees Sonya wearing her stockings; she spits in Sergei's eyes, and shoves him. He promises revenge, and later breaks into her cell with another man, giving her fifty lashes with a rope, while her cell-mate Sonya giggles in the background. Katerina, broken, lets Fiona console her, and realizes that she is no better than Fiona, which is her breaking-point: after that she is emotionless. On the road in the prison convoy, Sergei and Sonya together mock Katerina. Sonya offers her stockings to her for sale. Sergei reminisces about both their courtship and their murders in the same airy manner. Fiona and an old man in the convoy, Gordyushka, defend Katerina, but to no avail. The convoy arrives at a river and boards a ferry, and Katerina, repeating some phrases similar to Sergei's feigned nostalgia for their life at the estate, sets upon Sonya; they both end up in the river after Katerina has seen the faces of Boris, Zinovy, and Fyodor in the water. The two women briefly resurface, still alive, but Katerina grabs Sonya, and they both drown.


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