On This Day (January 22)…Lady Macbeth comes to Russia

Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk premiered on this day in 1934 at the Leningrad Maly Operny (also known as the Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg).

The libretto of this piece was based on an 1865 tale by Nikolai Leskov about a provincial Russian woman, her misadventures into the world of violence and adultery, and the price she eventually pays. Shostakovich’s opera adds sympathy to her story, leaving a narrative addressing the plight of pre-Revolution women. The unusual narrative, combined with Shostakovich’s experimental musical style, made it a remarkable piece of work from the start (source).

Dmitri Shostakovich
A young Dmitri Shostakovich. Retrieved from here.

Shostakovich’s second opera was, originally, well-received. In its native Russia, it had multiple productions at once in Moscow alone, and was produced similarly enthusiastically in St. Petersburg. It also proved to be an international hit (source). Unfortunately for the twenty-nine-year-old composer, it would also cause him a great deal of trouble, threatening both his artistic career and his very life, after a performance in January of 1936 was attended by a certain general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union…

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