Opera. Katerina Izmailova, the rich man's wife, who falls passionately in love with the worker, Sergei, poisons her father in law Boris, participates in the murder of her husband Zinoviy, and is finally deported to a prison camp, where she faces new horrors.
Premiere February 4, 2012
At last the Göteborg audience is able to renew contact with Katerina Izmailova, the rich man's wife, who falls passionately in love with the worker, Sergei, poisons her father in law Boris, participates in the murder of her husband Zinoviy, and is finally deported to a prison camp, where she faces new horrors.
Watch a clip from the performance.
Watch photoes from the performance.
Watch an interview with director Graham Vick
Graham Vick, the great British director, is famous from stages such as the Metropolitan in New York, La Scala in Milano and the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. This time he is working on his first production in Sweden and as often in the past is collaborating with scenographer and costume designer Paul Brown. The internationally sought after Russian director Thomas Sanderling is strongly associated with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and was personally acquainted with Shostakovich who liked to hear him conduct his work.
The West Swedish world soprano Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, with Copenhagen as her home stage visits The Göteborg Opera for the first time in the title role. In the role of Sergei we also have a Swede from the west of the country for whom the world is his workplace: the tenor Pär Lindskog. The third major role, Boris, is played by our own Mats Almgren, who has sung many significant bass parts both here and abroad.
Shostakovich’s dramatic opera was a great success at its premier in Leningrad in 1934. Two years later Stalin saw a performance and the work was banned. After thirty years the opera was resumed in adapted form with the title Katerina Izmailova. This version was shown at Stora Teatern in 1984 under the direction of David Radok, with Elisabeth Erikson in the title role and Enzo Florimo as Boris. The production was an enormous success and invitations came for guest performances in Dresden, Bergen and Stockholm. One of the conductors was the composer’s son Maxim Shostakovich.
Thomas Sanderling grew up in St Petersburg, where his father, the celebrated conductor Kurt Sanderling, was permanent conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. He graduated from the Music School of the Leningrad Conservatory and went on to study conducting at the Hochschule für Musik in East Berlin, becoming Music Director of the Halle Opera at 24 years old. By his mid-twenties he was conducting in all East Germany's principal orchestras and opera houses, including the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Leipzig Gewandhaus and won the Berlin Critic's Prize for his opera performances at the Komische Oper Berlin. His CD of Shostakovich's Michelangelo Suite (premiere recording) directly lead to his becoming assistant to both Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. In the early 1980s he became permanent guest conductor of the Deutsche Staatsoper Unter Den Linden, which led to his successful debut at the Wiener Staatsoper, conducting Die Zauberflöte. Immediately afterwards the Wiener Staatsoper invited him to conduct Le Nozze di Figaro - the first performance after the death of the great Karl Böhm. He has won many prizes and a competition and is particularly renowned for the German, Russian and French orchestral repertory.
Interview with Thomas Sanderling from BBC.
One of the greatest operas of the 20th century, Dmitri Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was created at the end of the Soviet creative avant-garde wave of the 1920s. The young Shostakovich had become a star in the rising with the publication of his first symphony and the production of his first opera, the Nose, the production of which required enormous resources. Meyerhold, Kandinsky and Prokofiev were the artists of the day for those in the know, and in Paris the Russian Ballet was riding on a wave of thriumphal performances. In the years just after the Russian revolution, creative artists still enjoyed a relatively free life but this was soon to change. Lenin died in 1924 and within five years Stalin had more or less made himself totalitarian dictator.
Shostakovich's opera was not allowed to be performed abroad either and so no more was heard of it until the beginning of the 1960s, when Stalin had died and life as an artist had become somewhat easier. The composer decided to revise his opera, removing and reworking the trombone glissando passage and similar parts. The highest notes for the role of Katerina and the lowest for her father-in-law Boris were brought lower and higher, respectively. The scenes featuring the father-in-law's return as a ghost were removed and a large number of smaller changes were also made. However, the work was not performed under its new name of Katerina Ismailova to start with. Instead an especially selected audience who were informed in advance attended the first performance at the Stanislavski Theatre in Moscow in 1962 - a performance which was advertised as being Rossini's The Barber of Seville. The performance was a success and finally Shostakovich's masterpiece could be performed on stage, albeit in a slightly different form than the original.
The role of Katerina was most famously played by Galina Vishnevskaya, who also recorded an opera film of a slightly shorter version of the work four years later. In her memoirs Galina has told the story of the film, including the freezing river she had to dive into together with the artist who played her rival in the prison camp, Sonyetka. (The film is now available on DVD.) Galina's husband, famous conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, did not take part in the recording of the film. He had been denounced by the state and a few years later the couple escaped to the West, where they later recorded the original version of the opera for EMI. Two Swedish singers took part in the recording: Nicolai Gedda sung the lead role of Sergei and alto Birgit Finnilä sang the part of Sonyetka.