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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Anne Ozorio December Recording
of the Month