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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975) Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – opera in four acts (1932 re. 1935)
Eva-Maria Westbroek (soprano) - Lady Macbeth
Christopher Ventris (tenor) - Sergei
Vladimir Vaneev (high baritone) - Boris and Old Convict
Ludovit Ludha (tenor) - Zinovy Borisovich Ismailov
Carole Wilson (soprano) - Aksinya and female convict
Lane Poulson (alto) - Sonyetka
Alexandre Kravets (tenor) - Shabby Peasant
Chorus of Nederlandse Opera
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. live, Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, 25, 28 June 2006.
complete with extras – documentary on production 65:00
DTS Stereo, LPCM Stereo
OPUS ARTE OA0965 D [2 discs: Act 1 49:19, Act II 50:52, Act III 27:17, Act IV 37:32]



This is a spectacularly successful issue. With one of the finest orchestras in the world conducted by an eminent Shostakovich conductor, supported by superb soloists and a very tasteful stage setting, Opus Arte cannot go wrong.

Initially, on reading the booklet, I must admit to being slightly suspicious about the production, but visually it works exceedingly well. The Director, Martin Kusej has chosen a stark angular metal and glass set which remains on stage throughout. It becomes a very important part of the drama, conveying the suggestion of a prison cell, a subterranean dungeon as well as a room, and a closed cell.

Where the production scores very highly is in the performance given by the principal soprano, Eva-Maria Westbroek who not only sings her part superbly, also acts it out with wonderful conviction. Her physical appearance is also spot-on, and one can understand watching her portrayal of the sex-starved frustrated young woman faced with an absent husband and the presence of a new, highly attractive suitor how Shostakovich’s portrayal of the female mind can be highly believable. Scantily clad, but in no way pornographic, her portrayal of the heroine is absolutely superb, and one can believe how the suitor, Sergei could have been mesmerised by such a wonderful creature.

The other characters are equally fine, with the husband and suitor both playing their parts as to the manner born. Shostakovich’s writing for the human voice in this work is not particularly lyrical, as the story requires. There is evidence of occasional poor pitching from all soloists as the drama continues, but the passions and emotions raised by the composer are superbly realised, and I would far rather put up with the occasional wrong note, than a flat, tone-perfect performance. In case this may sound at all negative, it is not intended to be: the soloists and chorus are all superb.

If anyone saw the ROHCG performance recently on BBC4 also recorded, like this performance, live, you may be assured, good though that was, the present performance I would rate even higher.

The magnificent Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by their conductor-in-chief, Mariss Jansons, play with both power and delicacy, and their presence in the pit is a constant delight. You can see from the conductor’s face during the entr’actes how much pleasure he is getting from the work. This permeates the whole performance.

This set will be on many Christmas lists I am sure, and recipients will feel very fortunate in their present. It is a superb contribution to the Shostakovich Centenary celebrations. 

John Phillips


See also Review by Anne Ozorio December Recording of the Month


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