Major Operas | Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Dmitri Shostakovich | Modern Era

Composed: 1930–32
Premiered: 1934, Leningrad
Libretto by the composer and Alexander Preys, after the short story by Nikolay Leskov

Act I

Katerina is married to Zinovy Ismailov. Despite his great wealth, she is bored. She has no children and Boris, her father-in-law, accuses her of being frigid. Zinovy has to go away on business. Boris makes Katerina publicly vow to be faithful to Zinovy. Katerina catches the men, led by Sergey, abusing Aksin’ya. Katerina pushes him away and is challenged to a wrestling match. Boris discovers them on the ground together.

Sergey knocks on Katerina’s bedroom door and proposes another wrestling match. She protests, but eventually her resistance dissolves. After they have noisily made love, Katerina tells Sergey that he is now her true husband.

Act II

A week later, Boris catches Sergey leaving Katerina and whips him. Boris demands some of his favourite mushrooms. She adds an extra ingredient, rat poison. He dies in agony, blaming Katerina. After making love, Katerina promises to marry Sergey. Zinovy returns and accuses Katerina of cuckolding him. Together they strangle him and hide his body in the cellar.


A drunken peasant finds Zinovy’s rotting corpse. Katerina is marrying Sergey. The policemen are annoyed at not being invited. The drunk tells them about the body. Katerina notices that the cellar lock is broken. The police arrive before she can flee. She confesses and Katerina and Sergey are arrested.

Act IV

A convict column halts beside a river in Siberia. Sergey tells Katerina she has ruined his life. He flirts with Sonetka, who wants new stockings. He makes Katerina part with hers and gives them to Sonetka. As the convicts line up, Katerina pushes Sonetka into the river. Both of them are swept away.

Personalities | Dmitri Shostakovich | Modern Era | Opera


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