Gary’s Rating of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: 4.8/5
Main Cast: Eva-Maria Westbroek (as Katerina Izmailova), Brandon Jovanovich (as Sergei)
Running Dates: Opening September 29, Closing October 21
Theater Location: The Metropolitan Opera, 30 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
Running Time: 3 hours and 25 minutes (including one 30 minute intermission)
Tickets: Prices from $47. Buy tickets here.
Gary’s Rating Score
I can almost hear you asking, “Wait, Gary, the show isn’t opening until late September. How come it already has a rating?”
The reason is simple: I’ve seen the opera before. And no, I’m not a time-traveler, although that’s precisely what a time-traveler would say.
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk opened at the Metropolitan Opera eight years ago and set the theater scene on fire. When I heard of the show as an absolute masterpiece, of course I had to go see what all the hype was about. Even better, Westbroek and Jovanovich were the leads back in 2014, too.
The music is the same, as are the plot and characters, and all of it is mind-blowing. Plus, it’s the Met, so I know the ensemble and orchestra will be phenomenal. But I know something else that finally convinced me to give Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk a 4.8 rating.
The upcoming show was staged by the late Sir Graham Vick. He staged the 2014 production that I saw, too, and from the first look it was clear that the man was a master of his trade and a visionary.
With all this considered, the only reason I didn’t give the show an unprecedented 5/5 rating is precisely because it’s not out yet. However, I’m certain it will easily reach my current score.
What’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk About?
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is a pre-Soviet-era story about class differences, the despair of a comfortable but dull life, infidelity, and murder.
The opera follows Katerina who lives in a wealthy household but is suffering from extreme boredom. She comes into contact with a newly hired servant, Sergei, a lively, driven, and unscrupulous character. Katerina becomes attracted to Sergei, believing he could be her way out of the unbearable existence.
However, things take a turn for the worse and ultimately lead Katerina down a dark path.
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was based on a short novel from the mid-19th century. This was the era of Dostoevsky and the Russian novel that explored the depths of the human soul and criticized the society at the same time. In fact, the novella was published in Dostoevsky’s magazine.
This means you can expect all of the staples of the genre: satire, social critique, existential questions, a bleak tone, and drama without end.
How Complex Is the Show?
The show and the music by Dmitri Shostakovitch are, without a doubt, complex. If you’re like me, you’ll probably leave the theater asking questions about life you never thought of. For example, is it better to live a regular life in comfort without doing anything, or take action and risk it all, even if the action is morally questionable?
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk definitely isn’t for everyone or for every situation. You’ll experience it best if you’re in the mood for heavy subjects. If you want a relaxing evening of entertainment, it’s best to skip this one and opt for a more lighthearted show.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of action in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and the show moves at a breakneck pace. Once you get into it, the three hours will seem to fly by. However, the action isn’t our easy-going modern variant – it’s action from a 19th-century Russian novella. In other words, it doesn’t serve for fun, but rather to explore the characters further.
And since I haven’t mentioned it so far, the entire opera is in Russian. This means you’ll need to watch, listen, and read what’s happening on the stage.
Set Design and Style
While the story is supposed to be set a century and a half ago, Sir Vick’s set design guarantees everything but a faithful representation of the period.
The opera has already gone through various transformations, ending up in a setting that looks more like the 1990s. The costumes are updated to modern clothes, and there’s plenty on stage that Dostoevsky wouldn’t even recognize – like the vacuum cleaners the maids use.
Pulling the show stylistically out of its era and placing it into the modern age makes it even stronger. Certain scenes give an entirely new impression only due to the cast wearing different costumes. Since the story fits into our age almost seamlessly, you must wonder how much progress we’ve made in the last 150 years.
The first show I’d recommend you see if you like Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk would be Crime and Punishment. When it comes to deep existential and moral questions asked through a period crime story, nobody does it better than Dostoevsky.
There’s an amazing adaptation by Campbell and Columbus that would be well-worth the watch. Unfortunately, the play hasn’t been in major theaters for a while now. But if you manage to catch it by chance, jump at the opportunity.
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk also reminds me of a much lighter musical and movie – Chicago. The theme isn’t precisely the same, although you’ll recognize certain story beats that could be compared. Even the music has some similarities. Shostakovitch’s dissonances are completely different in style from the flashy Chicago songs, but both create a fast pace and blend with the story perfectly.
A Review of the Reviews
The 2014 run of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk met with rave reviews.
Vulture advised readers not to skip the show, praising the two leads for their singing and acting performances. Of course, the review didn’t fail to talk about the incredible costumes and set design which act as much more than story dressing. Plenty of attention also went to the music and composer – even though Shostakovitch is long gone, his work still makes waves today.
The New York Times review pointed out the powerful and delicate performances from both leads, calling Westbroek’s “vulnerable and wrenching” and Jovanovich’s “dramatically fearless.”
A Little Bit About the Characters
|Katerina||A woman from a wealthy family driven to desperation by the boredom of her everyday life. Katerina spends much of her time daydreaming until she tries to take action and bring her fantasies to reality.|
|Sergei||Sergei is a servant with a careless attitude and few redeeming qualities outside of his charm. However, he’s driven to get what he wants and won’t stop at anything.|
About the Theater
The Metropolitan Opera has been around since 1883. From the beginning, the theater has been a powerhouse of opera, gathering the most influential artists, from conductors to world-class opera singers.
The Met has accessibility options for entrances, seating, telephones, and rest rooms. Accessible seats can be purchased on the theater website, via mail, by phone, or directly at the box office.
Getting to the Metropolitan Opera is very easy. You can get there by subway train No. 1, getting off at Lincoln Center Station. Plenty of bus lines also stop there. And if you’re coming by car, the website features detailed instructions from every possible direction.
Get Your Tickets
Seeing Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is an absolute must. It’s a classic in a modern disguise with timeless themes, thought-provoking subjects, exciting plot, and a masterful score.
Come September, you should be at the Met – I’ll certainly be there. Get your tickets here, mark your calendar, and set time aside to witness this miracle of an opera.