“Katerina Izmailova”. Opera
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Academic Music Theatre in Moscow. Prodused by Lev Mikhailov and conducted by Gennadi Provatprov, principal roles: Eleonora Andreieva (Katerina), Gennadi Yefimov (Sergei), Eduard Bulavin (Boris).
1963. “Muzfond” Publishers, Moscow.
Manuscript kept in RSALA rec. gr. 2048, inv. 3, f. 17-20
1960. Dusseldorf. Conductor A. Erese.
1963. London. Covent Garden. Conductor E. Downes.
1964. Zagreb, Conductor A. Horvat.
1965. Vienna. Conductor D. Krombholc.
Also in Helsinki. Milan, Buenos Aires, Basle, Vienna, Pec (Hungary), Barcelona, Turin, Berlin, Copenhagen, Munich, Oslo, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Klagenfurt (Austria), New York, London and Hamburg.
“Rehearsals of my opera ‘Katerina Ismailova’ at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre are of special concern to me. This work was performed in Soviet theatres as far as back as the thirties. I am now aware of the many imperfections in it and have done thorough work on the score. A good number of changes have been made to the text and the music itself.”
“I cut out many instrumental effects, in particular, some glissando passages for the trombones. They irritated me, being inappropriate and detracting attention from the main idea of the opera”
“...La Scala is planning to stage ‘Katerina Ismailova’ in the old version. This upset me very much. In the new version I had managed to correct a good deal. It had improved. I have a big favour to ask of you. Please tell them of my request that they should without fail stage the opera either in the new version or not at all. <...> I also want to let you know that I am categorically against them making any cuts or rearrangements in the opera”.
Revised Version of the Opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, op. 29
Dmitri Shostakovich finished work on the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in December 1932. The premiere of the new composition was held on 22 January 1934 at the Leningrad Maly State OperaTheatre (MALEGOT). The opera was first performed in Moscow two days later (on 24 January) at the Nemirovich-Danchenko State Music Theatre as Katerina Izmailova. The performance was scheduled to coincide with the opening of the 17th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). Both the Leningrad and the Moscow premieres enjoyed huge success.
On 29 December 1935, the premiere of the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was held in Moscow, on the second stage of the Bolshoi Theatre (conductor Alexander Melik-Pashayev, stage director Nikolai Smolich, stage designer Vladimir Dmitriyev).
On 26 January 1936, this opera was attended by Joseph Stalin in the company of Andrei Zhdanov and Anastas Mikoyan. And two days later, on 28 January 1936, an editorial was published in Pravda called “Muddle Instead of Music” that sharply criticised the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
On 10 February 1936, the last performance of Katerina Izmailova was held in Moscow, and on 7 March 1936, the last performance of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was held in Leningrad. The opera was then removed from the repertoire of the Soviet theatres.
The composer kept the manuscript of the score for long years.
The idea to return to the opera came to Shostakovich at the end of 1954. At first, this entailed only small corrections that the composer felt needed to be made to the music. Isaak Glikman testified to the fact that Shostakovich told him during a personal conversation in Leningrad in December 1954 that he was passing the “hours of sad loneliness” by repeatedly revising the opera and correcting Boris Timofeyevich’s part. “I noticed many weaknesses there,” said the composer. “What is more, this part is very difficult for the singer to perform. I left the second and third acts untouched. I want to ask you for advice about the finale of the opera. However, I am not doing it for the theatre. I am not very interested at the moment about whether the opera will be performed again or not. I mean, it has been so sorely abused.”
The events of the beginning of 1955 introduced new nuances into the work, when the administrative director of MALEGOT Boris Zagursky suggested putting on Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District at his theatre. In March 1955, the opera was shown to a panel of MALEGOT art experts. At first it was presumed that Shostakovich would only perform the two new entr’actes for the experts. The author stubbornly refused to perform the opera in full. But at the hearing, Shostakovich played the opera in its entirety “with immense enthusiasm and energy” (Glikman). The performance was met with approval, and a decision was made “to stage the opera during the 1955/56 season”.
However, staging of the opera did not go the way the theatre administration wished. The official regulations prevented the theatre from carrying out its intention without party and government approval. Evidently Zagursky was unable to obtain this approval and asked Shostakovich to send a personal request to First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers Vyacheslav Molotov regarding permission to stage the opera. Molotov received the composer and again confirmed the previous instructions for the USSR Ministry of Culture to come to terms with what had happened, which required gathering a commission of music experts for coming to a competent conclusion on the matter.
The Ministry of Culture began attending to Molotov’s assignment in March 1956. As Glikman recalled, “the commission decided unanimously not to recommend the staging of Lady Macbeth due to its significant ideological and artistic flaws”. Glikman described what happened as a “genuine second death sentence” for the opera. Without any official explanations, the administration of MALEGOT never returned to the idea of including the opera in their repertoire plans.
However, soon thereafter another attempt was made to put Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District on the stage, and this time by the Leningrad Kirov Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The very fact that this initiative came just a little more than a year after Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was “sentenced to death for the second time” by the members of the Moscow commission leads us to presume that its verdict was not binding and applied only to MALEGOT.
However, the 1958/59 season passed and the opera remained in the theatre’s portfolio.
In 1961 a “Moscow nuance” unexpectedly appeared in the process to put the revised version of the opera on the Soviet stage. Tikhon Khrennikov, First Secretary of the USSR Union of Composers, sent an official letter to the CPSU Central Committee offering to stage Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in Moscow, involving members of the Secretariat of the Union of Composers willing to take responsibility for preparing the opera for possible staging in the decision-making. After hearing the new version of the opera at a sitting of the USSR Union of Composers Secretariat (Shostakovich invited composer Mieczysław Weinberg to be the pianist for the hearing), its members, confirming that Shostakovich had made sufficient changes and revisions to the opera, spoke in favour of beginning work on its staging, applying in so doing for permission to engage in full-fledged rehearsals. It was stressed in the reply from the CPSU Central Committee that “a final decision on staging Lady Macbeth would be made after a public hearing and discussion of a closed performance”, and this essentially meant unofficial approval of beginning work on the opera. The Union of Composers sent a letter to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre asking to stage Shostakovich’s opera.
The first open premiere of the revised version of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Op. 29/114, called Katerina Izmailova, was held at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Academic Music Theatre on 8 January 1963.
Shostakovich considered the revised version of the opera to be a great improvement over the original. “I was able to make many changes in the new version, improve it,” he claimed in a private letter. According to Glikman’s recollections, “Dmitri Dmitriyevich was concerned that the revised version of Katerina Izmailova (in both the music and the words) be considered definitive with no possibility of returning to the first version. Subsequently, he wrote a categorical inscription about this, by way of edification for the conductors and directors, on the title page of the score of Katerina Izmailova. This is also shown by lines from a letter by the composer himself to Nikolai Benois: “…Please pass on my request that the opera definitely be performed in the new version or not performed at all.”
Music to the film.
Screen version of the opera.
Scriptwriter and Composer: D. Shostakovich.
Director: M. Shapiro. “Lenfilm” studios.
Released: October 1966.
Awarded a prize at the XX International Film Festival in Cannes.
- Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Le Chant du Monde LDX 78 400/03, 1970s
- Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Shinsekai SMK-7501/4,
- Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov. et al. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Melodia S-0871-8, 1964
- Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Melodia D-013709, 1964
- Fragments. Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Angel Melodia SR-40022,
- Fragments. Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Melodia Auslese 80 549 ZR,
- Fragments. Moscow Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Soloists: E. Andreeva, E. Bulavin, V. Radzievsky, G. Efimov and others. Conductor: G. Provatorov. 1963 // Melodia Eurodisc 74125 KR,
- Suite from the opera. Scottish National Orchestra. Conductor: Jarvey N. 1987-1988 // CHANDOS CHAN 7001, 1994
- Suite from the opera. Scottish National Orchestra. Conductor: Jarvey N. 1987 // CHANDOS CHAN 8587, 1988
- Suite from the opera. The Big Symphony Orchestra named after P.I. Tchaikovsky. Conductor: Fedoseev V.I. 1996 // PONY CANYON PCCL 00356, 1996