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I bought this disc on the basis of the reviews provided by other readers, especially those alluding to Ewing’s performance. BBCR3’s BAL was less complimentary but a combination of excellent sound as well as (allegedly) superb singing is something I am looking forward to. I’m writing this review, however, to simply flag my disappointment at the lack of a libretto and translation. I don’t know the opera and was looking forward to closely following the dialogue as well as hearing what Shostakovich does with the drama. Alas, I have been shortchanged. If, like me, you like to follow the opera as it unfolds, you will want to avoid this set - unless of course you are a Russian speaker. Come on DG - you can do so much better than this ... More after I listen to the discs (post purchasing a different version, complete with libretto).
"Chaos instead of music" ran the notorious review in Pravda which heralded the persecution of Shostakovich and other composers by Stalin's henchmen. By modern standards, the work is not especially dissonant (and is typical of Shostakovich). I liked it.
Drame dans la campagne russe au milieu du 19 ème siècle. Chostakovitch jeune génial. Mais il y a à redire sur l'enregistrement : on entend mal les passages chantés à voix basse . Par contre il faut baisser le son quand l'orchestre éclate d'une puissance sauvage. Dommage.
Note: This is a bargain reissue of an opera for which I wrote the review below when it appeared at full price.
This opera is a study in the psychopathology of everyday life. It exposes the kind of brutal manners familiar in naturalistic novels after the Goncourts and Zola, but Shostakovich had the misfortune of running afoul of the official Soviet position that criminality and pathology couldn't exist in the workers' paradise. Maria Ewing's strength isn't pure vocalism; anyone can find fault on technical grounds. But she is a passionate, involving actress with her voice, and she makes our anti-heroine chillingly desperate and driven--every moment is haunted. The supporting cast joins in with a broadly vicious portrayal of a spider's den passing for normal home life.
I don't know Russian, so I can't judge what might be wrong with Ewing's performance in the lead role, but to my ears this whole production is excellent: Chung's conducting catches the gritty, pointed mood of Shostakovich's writing and the murderous kitchen-sink melodrama is drawn with appealing luridness. I don't love Lady Macbeth, but comparing this version side by side with the acclaimed Rostropovich set on EMI, I plump for the DG as histrionics and the EMI as authentic Russianness.
People are so amusing with their know-it-all likes and dislikes, like the bashing of Maria Ewing, who's just fine in this. In fact, all the singers are fine, the band sounds great, and I don't this well enough to pontificate about the conductor. The opera itself is classic Shostakovich. Really enjoyable.