Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rostropovich's Lady Macbeth is truly one of the "Great Recordings of the Century". This first-ever and still best recording of Shostakovich's operatic masterpiece was a revelation when it appeared in 1979 (garnering numerous awards), and it remains just as gripping today. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk vividly relates the tale of Katerina, the sexually frustrated wife of the wealthy but impotent Zinovy. When Katerina's affair with the strapping young Sergey is discovered by her domineering father-in-law, Boris, she poisons him and later gets Sergey to kill her husband. The two eventually wind up in a Siberian prison, where Katerina commits suicide after Sergey rejects her for a younger woman.
Of course, the central attraction of this recording is Galina Vishnevskaya's electrifying portrayal of the title character, a mercilessly demanding role that ranges from delicate pianissimo singing to near shrieking hysteria. And Vishnevskaya encompasses it all: one moment she's completely vulnerable, singing in sweetly angelic tones, the next she's a haughty dominatrix, and next a conquered lover in post-coital bliss. That Vishnevskaya continuously pours out full tone in all these instances without permanently wrecking her voice seems little short of a miracle. She's ideally partnered by Nicolai Gedda, who sings with much passion as the cocksure Sergey, while Dimiter Petkov's Boris is a model of parental obstinacy. Then there's Rostropovich himself, who masterfully conducts Shostakovich's powerfully brilliant score as if born to the task.
EMI's latest remastering adds clarity and brilliance to the sound and brings the voices into bold relief (a marvelous thing in Vishnevskaya's case). However, the previous release (from 1990) had slightly more warmth and presence. But these differences are only noticeable on a direct A-B comparison, and if you have the old set, hang on to it; if not, you'll be enthralled by this handsome new presentation of this magnificent recording. [5/25/2002]
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com
This set includes the full libretto with English translation.