Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Monte Carlo Opera

The  long-standing presence of Russians in Monte Carlo going back to Diaghilev and beyond might help to  explain the choice of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for a gala performance at the famous opera house based in the Casino, although Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades or Prokofiev’s The Gambler might have been more appropriate. A fine cast had been assembled. Nicola Beller Carbone in the title role was, if anything, a little too good-looking, but her impersonation of a woman starved of love and self-expression was wholly convincing, and vocally there was both power for the anguish and lyricism for scenes of tenderness and introspection.Micha Didyk’s huge, brilliant Slavic tenor matched his physical bulk and his Sergey was at one and the same time frightening and alluring. The sexual encounter between these two principals was exciting musically and visually. Alexei Tikhomirov was an imposing Boris and all the minor parts were well taken.

Jacques Lacombe conducting the Orchestre Phiharmonique de Monte Carlo gave an assured reading of the score, with sharpness of attack for moments of brutality, precise irony for the comedy and passion for the love scenes. Marcelo Lombardero’s largely realistic production impressed with its detail. The decision to relate the piece to its condemnation by Stalin was understandable but transposing it to the 1950s did not work well, because in this setting the primitivism of behaviour and the patriarchal social structure at the heart of the opera was inauthentic.