Katerina Ismailova

Katerina Ismailova by Dmitri Shostakovich   ★★★★
This opera is a revision of his previous opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The prior opera was intensely disliked by the big boss (Stalin), with the threat to Dmitri that any more such music might lead to a short vacation in the Siberian Salt Mines.  Katerina was a revision of Lady Macbeth that was more tolerated by the state, and this version was actually produced in the Soviet Union in 1966. The acting was good, the music awesome, the recording sounded quite mediocre, and the film quality acceptable at best. Regardless, Shostakovich’s piece remains an absolute masterwork that is difficult to dislike. The music itself, when disjointed from the action, is quite tense, and certainly not relaxing. With the visuals, the music works perfectly. This opera should never be just listened to. I should mention that there are some productions of Lady Macbeth which are quite superlative, such as the Petr Weigl production with Rostropovich conducting. Both this Katerina production and the Weigl production are on-live-scene reality productions, and not on the opera stage, which also probably makes them much easier to follow. As an aside, Betsy would probably give this opera a 1-star rating, as she is not quite as familiar with the composing style of Shostakovich. I admit that some of his works demand repeat intense hearings in order to understand the composition, something true of any great composer. Lady Macbeth is no exception. For the Shostakovich lover, this opera is a real treat.