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DVD Review

Dmitri Shostakovich

Katerina Izmailova
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Op. 29
Original 1966 Soviet Film

Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano
Orchestra & Chorus of the Shevchenko Theatre, Kiev/Konstantin Simeonov
Decca DVD 0743137 112m DTS Anamorphic Widescreen
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This DVD is not just an issue to bolster up the catalogue with something new, it is a unique historical document of paramount importance reminding us of what it was like for an artist to work in the former Soviet state. It is now common knowledge that this opera put the composer's life at risk, soon after its première in 1935 under the name of 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District'.

'Katerina Izmailova' is a reworking of the original and it somehow appeased the regime, although performances were scant. In 1966, the Soviet government decided to honour Shostakovich on his 60th birthday by having the opera presented in a filmed version. This disc is precisely Michael Shapiro's celebrated classic starring Galina Vishnevskaya in the title role who also sings the part. The story is a searing and torrid tale of passion, adultery and murder and the music is no less dark and powerful.

Vishnevskaya's performance is nothing short of staggering and her acting is as involving as her singing. The rest of the cast all act and sing their hearts out, contributing to a production of great dramatic intensity. This release is the first one outside Russia and this newly restored film print is a credit to the engineer's labours although some visual and audio defects persist. All praise to Decca for ending the Shostakovich centenary with a powerful contribution to the history of Russian opera.

Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech