COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk
PERFORMER: Eva-Maria Westbroek, ChristopherVentris, Carole Wilson; Chorusof De Nederlandse Opera;Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons


Brutal to a degree even Shostakovich can barely have anticipated, Martin Kusej’s stark production for the Netherlands Opera pares his operatic masterpiece down to its two main preoccupations, sex and violence.

Eva-Maria Westbroek’s desperate housewife, sporting Jean Harlow hair and an Imelda Marcos wardrobe of shoes, steps out of her glass-walled bedroom to encounter a muddy world of male aggression.

There isn’t much room for fulfilled tenderness in her rough relationship with strapping foreman Sergey (Christopher Ventris, as dependable as he is on EMI’s Barcelona Lady Macbeth), consummated to strobe lighting.

It would be hard to exaggerate the horror of the murders, to which Kusej adds a fourth: Katerina’s, lynched by her crazy fellow-inmates not on the road to Siberia – any hint of Russianness has been eschewed in favour of existential nightmare – but in an asylum patrolled by police and guard-dogs.

Despite the plausible mayhem on stage, Mariss Jansons excels not just in conjuring the full, focused spectrum of colours from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra but also in co-ordinating it tightly with all the soloists, so game to act out Kusej’s extreme characterisations to the hilt, and a superb chorus.

Westbroek gives a very different performance from her recent role in the Covent Garden revival of Richard Jones’s production (another must for DVD release).

Rock-solid in dramaticsoprano mode, she covers the full, daunting range both dramatically and vocally. The ecstatic curtaincalls are well deserved indeed.


There’s also a beautifully produced booklet and a substantial extra, Reiner E Moritz’s documentary, calling on principals, conductor and director to guide us through the opera with a generous amount of detail.