Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk premiered to great acclaim in 1934 at the Small Opera Theatre in Leningrad (today St Petersburg). Yet it would only enjoy general popularity in Russia until January 1936, when Joseph Stalin attended a performance at the Bolshoi in Moscow, following which the official Communist Party newspaper Pravda condemned the piece in the infamous article titled “Muddle instead of music”. Subsequently, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk had to be withdrawn from the repertoire of theatres throughout the Soviet Union. (By the way, it was also banned in Nazi Germany.)
On the very day when Stalin saw the production in Moscow, the opera received its premiere, for the very first time in German translation, at the Neues deutsches Theater (now the State Opera) in Prague, conducted by Georg Széll and staged by Renato Mordo. Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was prohibited in Russia until 1963, when its revised version, Katerina Izmailova, was first performed in Moscow.
After the composer’s death, the majority of opera houses worldwide returned to the original version, which is also the case of the new production to be presented at the State Opera.