This week marks the 80th anniversary of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District premiere. In light of this, I thought it would be fun to tie the controversy surrounding this opera into our “Controversy in Music” discussion this month.
Dmitry Shostakovich lived in the Soviet Union during a time when the state enforced socialist realism, a government-approved system demanding that artists create in a clearly-defined style that portrays an idealized lifestyle within their nation. Under this system, many artists felt restricted and unable to fully display their creativity.
During this time, Shostakovich wrote his opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District that premiered on January 22, 1934 in Leningrad and on January 24, 1934 in Moscow. For a full synopsis of this work, check out this description from the MET.
At first, the opera experienced great success with performances occurring internationally. Critics considered Lady Macbeth a major achievement, one only a Soviet composer could successfully produce. Two years following its premiere, however, Shostakovich’s success took a turn for the worse. Stalin attended a performance and controversy ensued. Read more about what followed when I post on Wednesday!