2/24/2007

From Russia With Blood

A few years ago, I was introduced to Dmitri Shostakovich's work when I saw a brilliant dance piece called The Overcoat set to his music and based on a story by Gogol. It was a powerful and gripping production and is back this season at CanStage. Go.

The demanding score of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, currently on offer at Canadian Opera Company surprised me with its frustration and tension, but also with moments of levity that temporarily allowed the veil of strain and ennui to lift. Mistress La Spliffe wonderfully described the faint breath of polka rhythm present in Shostakovich's work on her site that had me laughing and agreeing.

The most sensual and effective imagery of the night was found not in one of the visceral sex scenes, but following the murder of Katerina's husband. The move of the guilty lovers toward embrace bathed in blood and light as the curtain falls was exquisite.

As arresting as some moments were, there was never enough to take me where I needed to go with this opera and it no doubt was too modern for my taste.

I don't shy away from the violence music is capable of but perhaps next time, a little more foreplay before all the strident overtures you cheeky monkey.

12 comments:

Coaster Punchman said...

At the very least, the opera should have bought you dinner first.

Dale said...

I may have to post about my pre-opera heroics at dinner CP!

Chancelucky said...

You know, I like Shostakovitch very much, especially his chamber music, but I've never heard his operas. He had sort of a bad name for a bit when I was young because he recanted and appeared to change his music during a Stalinist purge. Sort of like Von Karajan and the Nazi thing.
If I were going to get thrown in prison or sent to Siberia, I'd probably write different for a while. I admire artists who refuse to be censored, but I don't blame anyone simply for playing it safe. Unless it's Chris Sligh on American Idol :}

Actually, come to think of it Stalin gave Shostakovitch a bad time about Lady Macbeth itself. It's sometimes weird to realize that Stalin wanted to be a poet and Hitler wanted to be a painter. They say art is supposed to ennoble the soul :}

NYCbeauty said...

Ah, another opera lover!!! I just read an article by the new general manager of the Met, and he said that the MEAN age of opera-goers currently is 68 years old. Maybe I can meet some old rich guy who is about to die!

Dale said...

The chamber music I've heard I've enjoyed too and my opera pal loves his arrangements, the opera just wasn't working for us. I can see my writing shifting a tiny bit under a state rule too.

Ah, the real American dream NYCB! Everytime a few more of them die, my seats get better. Marry away!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Funny, I can't see the name Gogol anymore without also thinking Bordello. I'll bet they would put on a boffo opera.

Dale said...

Gogol Bordello will be at Coachella this year Barbara. I wonder if we could borrow the Little Miss Sunshine van?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I could drive that thing! My first car was a VW bug that I often had to push start. Easy peasy! What day will you pick me up?

X. Dell said...

Some years back, I recall playing a Shostikovitch piece at a masterclass, when one of the attendees described my interpretation as "creepy." Before then, I never really thought much about the ability of music to express violence, but it can. Unfortunately, music has much difficulty with humor.

That should pretty much explain why musicians are the way they are.

Dale said...

Is it too early to say now Barbara? We could hang out in the sun until Canada gets over this whole winter thing.

You must have been in interesting form X. Dell to have your interpretation called creepy. Shostakovich did manage the humour quite broadly through his score and perhaps if there had been more of it, the thing wouldn't have seemed so unrelenting.

Old Lady said...

I like the olde stuff most times. I suppose that modern ones wiil have their day one day.

Dale said...

I like the traditional ones more too Old Lady. There's a great opera company here called Opera Atelier who does baroque opera and it's sumptuous and perfect but they only do two shows per year and then tour the universe. It's always worth it.