Reviewed by Judy Richter
Music and drama combine for a compelling production of Dmitri Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk'' by the San Francisco Opera. Directed by Johannes Schaaf and conducted by music director Donald Runnicles, it features Norwegian soprano Solveig Kringelborn in the title role. Her character, Katerina, is married to a relatively prosperous merchant Zinovy (Russian tenor Vsevolod Grivnov) in a rural area of Russia before the Revolution. Theirs is a loveless marriage, made even more onerous by her father-in-law, Boris (Russian bass Vladimir Vaneev), a boorish clod who berates her for not bearing children. She's horribly bored and frustrated, so when a handsome new hired man, Sergei (British tenor Christopher Ventris), comes on the scene, she easily succumbs to him even though she has been warned that he's a notorious skirt-chaser. Murder and tragedy inevitably ensue, but not before some gorgeous singing by all involved, including the San Francisco Opera Chorus. The Opera Orchestra also plays with passion, for Shostakovich's eclectic score underlines and advances the drama as well as the moments of humor.
Nina Ritter's simple but flexible set design is dominated by a huge red inverted triangle and a low platform, complemented by David Finn's lighting. The costumes, including a symbolically red dress for Katerina, are by Franz Lehr, the sound by Roger Gans. Overall, this production, which originated at Stuttgart Opera, is a marvelous fusion of the theatrical and musical arts.
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