Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Opera in three Acts to a libretto by Alexander Preys after a novella by Nikolai Leskov [sung in Russian, with Met surtitles in English, German and Spanish]
Katerina Ismailova — Svetlana Sozdateleva
Sergei – Brandon Jovanovich
Zinovy Ismailov — Nikolai Schukoff
Boris Ismailov — John Relyea
Sonyetka – Maria Barakova
Shabby Peasant – Rodell Rosel
Priest – Goran Jurić
Police Sergeant – Alexy Shishlyaev
Old Convict – Alexander Tysmbalyuk
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Graham Vick – Production
Paul Brown – Set & Costume Designer
Nick Chelton – Lighting Designer
Ron Howell – Choreographer
Paula Suozzi – Revival Stage Director
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 7 October, 2022
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City
After eight years, the Met’s 1994 production of Shostakovich’s 1934 opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – a grim, existential tale of an unhappy housewife in rural Russia driven by boredom and a never-ending cycle of degradation to adultery and murder – is back for a thrilling third revival. The imaginative staging by Sir Graham Vick, who died of Covid-19 last year at the age of 67, updates the action from the nineteenth-century to sometime in the 1950s. With its sharply focused satire, brazen sexuality, and frequently frenzied score, the work is as audacious as ever.
Replacing Eva-Maria Westbroek, Svetlana Sozdateleva is a splendid Katerina Ismailova, the conniving Lady Macbeth at the center of the scorching and caustic drama. Sozdateleva’s big soprano, occasionally strident but never ugly, is a fine fit for the vocal and dramatic demands of her character. Hers is a vulnerable and altogether wrenching performance. Joining her is Brandon Jovanovich as the laborer Sergei. With his rugged good looks and bright, virile tenor, he is thoroughly convincing as her womanizing lover, the superficially charming opportunist with whom she is driven to feed poisoned mushrooms to her father-in-law and strangle her husband.
With his booming bass-baritone, the ever-reliable John Relyea is a standout as Boris, Katerina’s lecherous and bullying father-in-law. In the role of Zinovy Borisovich, Boris’s impotent and forgettable son, is Nikolai Schukoff. His big, brassy tenor is most effective in the opening scene as he effectively exposes the emptiness in his marriage to Katerina.
Goran Jurić is notable as the cheerfully hypocritical Priest; Alexander Tsymbalyuk gives a potent portrayal of the impassioned Old Convict; and Alexey Shishlyaev has a scene-stealing outing as the comically corrupt Police Sergeant. Maria Barakova is a vivid and suitably slutty Sonyetka, the young convict who gets pushed into a river and drowned by Katerina.
Keri-Lynn Wilson elicits fine work from the soloists, Orchestra, and Chorus, its throwing themselves into the rambunctious, whimsically comical staging and admirably meeting its demands, dramatically as well as vocally.
Shostakovich’s diverse, dramatic, and thoroughly compelling score alternates passages of blaring ferocity with quiet, brooding sections and moves from moments of tender lyricism to flashes of snarling brass. All this and much more comes through in the incisive and colorful playing of the Orchestra.
Altogether, this is a sensational production of Shostakovich’s expressionistic masterpiece.
Further performances on October 12, 15 (matinee) and 21
A fall 2022 performance will be broadcast on February 25 beginning at 1pm Eastern Time via the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.