Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

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October 2024



The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich set Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to a libretto he wrote together with Alexander Preis after the eponymous novella by Nikolai Leskov. He himself referred to the opera as a satirical tragedy. The main character, Katerina, is a murderess haunted by qualms of conscience. Yet, with a touch of bitter humour, Shostakovich also focuses on the moral decay of the inhabitants of a Russian village, revealing the omnipresent torpidity and recklessness. Life without hope and love is the very reason for the heroine’s downfall.

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 Subsequently, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk had to be withdrawn from the repertoire of theatres throughout the Soviet Union.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.) Three days later 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.


WARNING: We would like to remind the audience of nudity, explicit sex scenes, violence and e-cigarette smoking during the show. 
Suitable for audiences aged 15+.

Program and cast

Approximate running time: 2 hours 55 minutes, 1 intermission (20 minutes) minutes

Language: In Russian, surtitles in Czech, English


Conductor: Hermann Bäumer

Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov: František Zahradníček

Zinovy Borisovich Izmailov: Josef Moravec

Katerina Lvovna Izmailova: Alžběta Poláčková

Sergei: Denys Pivnitskyi

Aksinya: Tamara Morozová

Seedy lout: Jaroslav Březina

Priest: Ivo Hrachovec

Police sergeant: Jan Hnyk

Policeman, Sergeant, Sentry: Csaba Kotlár

Teacher: Jan M. Hájek; Benjamín Hájek

Sonetka: Kateřina Jalovcová

Old convict: Peter Mikuláš

Female convict: Lucia Bildová; Markéta Frýdová

First workman: Leonid Fokin

Second workman: Zdeněk Haas; Michael Skalický

Third workman: Sergej Smirnyj; Lukáš Frýda

Mill-hand: Sergej Smirnyj; Michael Skalický

Coachman: Nikolaj Nikolov; Leonid Fokin

Foreman: Lukáš Frýda; Dalibor Pavelka

Yard keeper: Libor Novák; Andrey Styrkul

Drunken guest: Nikolaj Nikolov; Leonid Fokin


State Opera Chorus
State Opera Orchestra
National Theatre Opera Ballet


Creative team

Stage director - Martin Čičvák

Sets - Hans Hoffer

Costumes - Georges Vafias

Light design - Jan Dörner

Choreography - Silvia Beláková

Chorus master - Adolf Melichar

Dramaturgy - Beno Blachut

Photo gallery
Zdeněk Sokol
© Zdeněk Sokol
Zdeněk Sokol
© Zdeněk Sokol

Prague State Opera

The State Opera today


The State Opera (formerly the State Opera Prague, between 1948 and 1992 the Smetana Theatre, and originally the New German Theatre) has been a part of the National Theatre since 2012. The Opera and Ballet ensembles give repertory performances at the State Opera.




The Prague State Opera resides in the building which on January 5, 1888 was opened as a Prague German stage with the performance of Wagner’s opera, The Mastersingers of Nürnberg. In the 19th century, Prague Germans performed in the Estate’s Theater in alternation with a Czech company. Desire for their own theater led to negotiations in 1883 for the construction of a new theater building for the German Theater Association. Over the next three years, a blueprint was drawn up and handed over to the Vienna atelier of Fellner and Hellmer. Also sharing in the design was the architect of the Vienna Municipal Theater, Karl Hasenauer, while Prague architect Alfons Wertmüller took part in the construction. Financing came from private collections. With its spacious auditorium and neo-Rococo decoration, this theater building is among the most beautiful in Europe.




By car

On Wilsonova street, from the left lane close to the State Opera building take the slip road to the Slovan above-ground garage. The parking fee is 40 CZK/h.


By tram


By daytime tram No. 11 to the stop “Muzeum”, through the underpass beneath Legerova street in the direction of the NationalMuseum, at the crossroads turn right along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By daytime trams Nos. 3, 9, 14 and 24 or night trams Nos. 51, 52, 54, 55, 56 and 58 to the stop “Václavské náměstí”, then by foot uphill on the left side of the Wenceslas Square to the traffic lights across Wilsonova and Vinohradská streets. Then turn left along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By metro

To the “Muzeum” station, lines A and C (green and red), and then by foot along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

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