Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
PERFORMER: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, Vladimir Vaneev, Vsevolod Grivnov, Sergej Kunaev; Orchestra & Chorus of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/James Conlon; dir. Lev Dodin (Florence, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 101 387 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 16:9 picture format)

DVD competition from other tough and intense Katerina Izmailovas is already strong. The abridged 1966 film of Shostakovich’s revision features a harrowing performance from Galina Vishnevskaya; more recently Eva-Maria Westbroek and Nadine Secunde have followed their uncompromising directors with focused dedication.
Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet has nowhere to go in Lev Dodin’s ramshackle Maggio Musical Fiorentino production; but even if she did, I doubt if even a theatrical wizard could have found a chink of pathos in her wildly over-the-top approach and mile-wide vibrato.
It’s lamentable how a staging with few firmly-projected ideas can make even Vladimir Vaneev, so chilling a father-in-law in Martin Kusej’s outlandishly brilliant Amsterdam production (on Opus Arte), look awkward on stage.
Too often the ill-judged close-ups here catch him and others looking anxiously towards conductor James Conlon for help. He, too, is sometimes on shaky ground with an orchestra of far from first-class quality.
Thin Maggio Musicale strings are exposed in the ill-advised use of the passacaglia for the opening credits; the chorus don’t seem to have evolved much from the days when dedicated outsiders learning their Russian or Czech would be dismissed as ‘i fanatici’.
Nothing really works: the sexual violence is aimless and Shostakovich’s famous ‘pornophonic’ love-scene surely deserves better than a lamp swinging high on a badly proportioned set. Perhaps it’s as well there’s no bonus documentary to highlight the absence of careful thought. David Nice