Opera in four acts and nine images

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich · Libretto by Aleksander G. Preiss and the composer after the correspondent tale by Nikolaj S. Leskow
In Russian with English and German surtitles | New Production

Monday, 28. November 2016
07:00 pm

· 1. + 2. Akt (est. 07:00 pm - 08:40 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:40 pm - 09:15 pm ) · 3. + 4. Akt (est. 09:15 pm - 10:15 pm )

Prices M

Premiere at 28. November 2016

This production will be broadcast live on BR-KLASSIK

30 minutes before the performance, live from the lobby of the Nationaltheater: The opening night broadcast with on-the-scene interviews and reports.

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Musikalische Leitung
Kirill Petrenko
Harry Kupfer
Hans Schavernoch
Yan Tax
Thomas Reimer
Jürgen Hoffmann
Malte Krasting
Sören Eckhoff

Boris Timofejewitsch Ismailow
Anatoli Kotscherga
Sinowi Borissowitsch Ismailow
Sergey Skorokhodov
Katerina Lwowna Ismailowa
Anja Kampe
Misha Didyk
Heike Grötzinger
Kevin Conners
Christian Rieger
Sean Michael Plumb
Milan Siljanov
Goran Jurić
Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Kristof Klorek
Dean Power
Peter Lobert
Igor Tsarkov
Anna Lapkovskaja
Alter Zwangsarbeiter
Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Selene Zanetti
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
  • Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
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A young woman, married to a wealthy man, but miserably lonely; trapped within a world ruled with an iron fist. Katerina is driven by a lust for life and for love. Her husband, though, is impotent; her father-in-law a tyrant. No wonder, then, that she longs to free herself from this yoke. When Sergei starts work on the family estate, she sees in him a chance for salvation. However, their subsequent affair marks the beginning of a descent into crime. 

The opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, first performed in Leningrad in 1934, is a tale about the pursuit of self-fulfilment. Yet, the outcome is lawlessness and the deaths of four people. Shostakovich tells the story using idiosyncratic music that simmers, smoulders and erupts. Katerina's struggle for a happier life includes a longing for sexual gratification. This scene's graphic portrayal led to the opera being banned in the Soviet Union for many years and the composer almost ending up in a labour camp. The question examined in Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, concerning the permitted lengths a person might go to, to escape from dehumanising circumstances, has never lost its relevance.


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Act 1
Scene 1. Yekaterina Lvovna, called Katerina, has been married for five years to the merchant, Zinovy Borisovich Izmailov. Boredom and inactivity define her life, but she yearns for something more. She is still childless, a situation for which Boris Timofeyevich, her father-in-law, blames her. When Katerina refuses to accept responsibility for her marriage’s lack of children, Boris threatens her. Zinovy then has to urgently travel to the Izmailovs’ remote mill, while Boris demands that his workers sing him a farewell song. At the same time, he forces Katerina to humbly swear fidelity to her man.
Interlude: Largo

Scene 2. The new labourer, Sergey, incites his colleagues to seriously abuse the cook, Aksinya. Katerina interrupts their actions, but feels drawn to Sergey, who suggests they have a wrestle. Boris appears suddenly and announces that he will punish Katerina. Then he wants to eat mushrooms for dinner.
Interlude: Allegro con brio

Scene 3. That evening in her bedroom, Katerina painfully senses the emptiness and loneliness of her life. She longs for love. Under the disguise of wanting to borrow a book, Sergey visits her and begins a new, pretend game of wrestling with her. After initially resisting, she gives up fighting against him and the two begin to make love.


Act 2
Scene 4. Unable to sleep, Boris keeps watch over the courtyard, plagued by worry and his growing desire for Katerina. When he sees a light on in his daughter-in-law’s room, he forgets himself and decides to go to her. On the way, he discovers Sergey climbing out of Katerina’s room, orders his men to catch him and hold him, before horribly whipping him in front of her eyes. Now hungry, Boris demands more mushrooms. Katerina laces these with rat poison, and successfully diverts all suspicion away from her.
Interlude [Passacaglia]: Largo

Scene 5. Katerina now spends her nights with Sergey. Tormented by insomnia and a hunger for love, the ghost of Boris appears before her. She promises Sergey that she will soon make him a merchant. Zinovy returns in the middle of the night. Having heard rumours of Katerina’s affair, he mistrustfully quizzes her. His suspicions are confirmed when he finds a belt, with which he then starts hitting his wife. Katerina calls upon the hiding Sergey’s help, and together they kill Zinovy and hide his corpse in the cellar.


Act 3
Scene 6. Katerina and Sergey wed. While the wedding guests enter the church, a drunken, shabby peasant searches for schnapps in the cellar, where he stumbles across Zinovy’s rotting corpse, before running to the police, screaming.
Interlude: Allegretto

Scene 7. The corrupt policemen are pleased by the change and the excuse to take part in the wedding celebrations.
Interlude: Presto

Scene 8. In the middle of the feast, Katerina notices the broken cellar lock and wants to flee with Sergey. But it is too late. The police have surrounded the courtyard. Katerina then confesses and the culprits are arrested.


Act 4
Scene 9. On the march to Siberia, the convicts sing about their hopeless destiny. Among the prisoners are Katerina and Sergey. In the bivouac, Sergey rejects Katerina’s tenderness, as he feels betrayed by her, and the fact that she is now a poor, forced labourer means that she no longer holds any value for him. He then begins an affair with another prisoner, the young Sonyetka, who, in return for sexual favours, goads him into the cruel humiliation of Katerina. Katerina is desperate, and can no longer take the ridicule from the others. When the prisoners set out the next morning, Katerina kills Sonyetka and herself.

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Kirill Petrenko was born in Omsk in 1972 where he studied piano at the College of Music. At the age of eleven he gave his first public performance as a pianist with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra. In 1990 his family (his father a violinist and his mother a musicologist) relocated to Vorarlberg where his father worked as an orchestra musician and music teacher. Petrenko first continued his studies in Feldkirch before moving to Vienna to study conducting at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. 

His first job after graduation took him directly to the Vienna Volksoper where he was hired by Nikolaus Bachler as Kapellmeister. From 1999 until 2002 Kirill Petrenko was General Music Director at the Meininger Theater. It was in 2001 in his role as conductor of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, in the production by Christine Mielitz and with scenery by Alfred Hrdlicka, that he first achieved international acclaim. In 2002 Kirill Petrenko became General Music Director of the Komische Oper Berlin where, until 2007, he was credited with a series of highly significant productions.

During his time in Meiningen and Berlin his international career also began to flourish. In 2000 Kirill Petrenko made his debut at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, in 2001 at the Vienna Staatsoper and the Dresden Semperoper, in 2003 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, the Opéra National de Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the New York Metropolitan Opera and in 2005 at the Oper Frankfurt. In Lyon, in collaboration with Peter Stein, he conducted all three Pushkin-inspired operas by Tchaikovsky (Mazeppa, Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame) from 2006 until 2008, which were also performed as a cycle in early 2010.

After moving on from the Komische Oper Berlin Kirill Petrenko worked as a freelance conductor. During this period his projects included conducting a new production of Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa (Production: Barbara Frey) at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2009. In Frankfurt he conducted Pfitzner's Palestrina (Production: Harry Kupfer) and Puccini's Tosca (Production: Andreas Kriegenburg). In 2011 he worked on two new productions of Tristan and Isolde at the Opéra National de Lyon and at the Ruhrtriennale.

To date, the most important orchestras Kirill Petrenko has been invited to conduct include the Berlin Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the BR Symphony Orchestra, the Bayerische Staatsorchester, the WDR Cologne Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Philharmonic and the NDR Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, the Frankfurt Opern- und Museumsorchester, the Amsterdam Concertgebouworkest, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Turin and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Kirill Petrenko has also conducted concerts at the Bregenz and Salzburg Festivals. From 2013 to 2015 he swung his baton for the new production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen during the Bayreuth Festival.

Since September 2013 Kirill Petrenko has been General Music Director at the Bayerische Staatsoper. He has held this position until the end of the 2019/20 season. Since 2013, he has taken to the rostrum for premieres of Die Frau ohne SchattenLa clemenza di TitoDie SoldatenLucia di Lammermoor, Lulu, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsenk District and Tannhäuser as well as the world premiere of Miroslav Srnka’s South Pole and a revival of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen among other works. In June 2015, Kirill Petrenko was named future Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, starting this position in autumn 2019.

In the current season at the Bayerische Staatsoper Kirill Petrenko led an new production of Verdi's Otello  and Strauss' Salome. Furthermore, Kirill Petrenko conducts revivals of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Fidelio, and Parsifal as well as two Academy Concerts with the Bayerische Staatsorchester.

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