On This Day (January 26)…Shostakovich Faces the Sharpest of Critics

Dmitri Shostakovich received a surprise guest attending a performance of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on this day in 1936. The guest was none other than the most powerful man in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin.

Retrieved from here.

Stalin was, as well as a political leader, a noted connoisseur of the arts. He had been a poet in his youth; some of his work can be found here. He was also known as something of a film critic (source).

The show went very well. I was called out by the audience and took a bow. My only regret is that I did not do so after the third act.

Dmitri Shostakovich recalling the show in a letter to a friend. Retrieved from here.

The opera had received acclaim for its more experimental and modernist style. However, these did not impress Stalin, who walked out midway through the performance (source).

Shostakovich was immediately filled with a sense of dread, and escaped Moscow for the city of Arkhangelsk. He would have to wait, however, for the final judgement on the work.

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