A gentler Lady Macbeth?

Stein Winge’s 2002 production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District at Barcelona’s Liceu is fairly straightforward in a minimalist sort of way.  The first scene establishes the tone for sets.  There’s a bed and a window and that’s about it.  The succeeding eight scenes are equally stark.  There’s an unusual, and disturbingly creepy, sexual tension between Katerina and Boris Ismailov; played here less boorishly than usual by Anatoli Kotcherga.  The three “difficult” scenes; the rape of Aksinya, the seduction and the death of Katerina are all handled pretty well.  It’s all less “in your face” than Martin Kušej’s Amsterdam production but it’s effective.  There’s also an element of “black slapstick”, especially in the scenes involving the police, that seems to fit the music rather well.The music making, directed by Alexander Anissimov, is somewhat less frenetic than Mariss Jansons and  the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Amsterdam performance but some of what we lose in intensity we gain in lyricism in the more relaxed moments.  This is matched by some lovely lyrical singing from Christopher Ventris as Sergei and the ardent and physical, if somewhat taxed, Katerina of Nadine Secunde.  There are excellent cameos too from Nino Surguladze as a slutty but seductive Sonjetka, Juha Kotilainen as a manic Chief of Police and Yevgeny Nesterenko as a dignified Old Convict.The video direction by Toni Bargalló is undistracting and seems to do justice to the production.  The picture quality is good quality DVD and the DTS sound track (Dolby 5.1 and LPCM stereo also offered) is precise and reasonably spacious, though neither sound nor picture are up to recent Blu-ray releases.  There are no disk extras and the documentation is restricted to a chapter listing.  There are English, French, Catalan, German, Italian and Spanish subtitles.For most people this will likely not displace the Amsterdam production but it is clearly preferable to the more recent production from Florence and is definitely worth a look.

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