Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk


Writers: Dmitri Shostakovich Alexander Preys


Show Information

Based on the Play/Book/Film
Lady Macbeth of Mstensk by N. Leskov
Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Tragedy
Multiple Settings, Period
Time & Place
19th century, Russia, 1865, Mtsensk
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Ideal for
Professional Opera, Star Vehicle Male, Large Cast
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes mature adult, adult, young adult, elderly characters


Katerina Izmailova is bored of her marriage. Her husband is not interested in her, and her father-in-law controls her every movement. She is desperate for the slightest bit of affection, or physical connection with anyone. When she meets Sergey, the new mill worker, there is something exciting about his violent side. It does not take long before their fighting leads to an affair.

But, Katerina’s father-in-law is always watching. He catches Sergey sneaking out of the window at night and brutally flogs him as a burglar. Katerina has had enough. She poisons her father-in-law, putting rat poison in his beloved mushrooms, and frees Sergey. Her husband returns to find another man in his bed, and beats Katerina for her betrayal. Katerina and Sergey overpower him, and strangle the life from him. They hide his body in the cellar and arrange their wedding.

Katerina is haunted by ghosts, and the thought of the rotting corpse in the cellar. She is certain someone is going to find the body, and her prediction comes true when a local drunk tries to steal some wine and stumbles across it. Katerina and Sergey are accused of murder and taken to a labor camp in Siberia. In prison, Katerina finds out that Sergey has quickly moved on. In her rage, she confronts his new lover, and pushes her off a bridge into an icy river. Katerina loses her footing and also falls to her death.

After spending the first three decades of its existence banned in the Soviet Union, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk now holds a prestigious position in the canon of Russian opera. Sexual themes, and scenes of violent abuse and murder make this an opera for mature audiences, who can appreciate this depiction of the social oppression and control that lead an ordinary woman to commit atrocities.

Lead Characters

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk guide sections