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OPERA REVIEW

New leads energize 'Lady Macbeth'

October 26, 2002|Mark Swed | Times Staff Writer

The Kirov Opera may not have brought its best-known singers along for its touring production of Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," which Los Angeles Opera is presenting in daily performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through Tuesday. But that may be just as well. As run by conductor Valery Gergiev, this ambitious company does a remarkable job in discovering and fostering talent. With at least triple casts for all the principals and even some of the smaller roles, these performances provide a showcase for Russian singing.

Not all of the singers will be young, fresh discoveries, of course. On opening night, Wednesday, Katerina and Sergei, the young merchant's wife who finds liberation through murder and her rakish lover, were stout and mature, if vocally impressive. Thursday night, they were replaced by Irina Loskutova and Oleg Balashov (who was scheduled to sing only on Sunday). Younger and more theatrically credible, this couple made Shostakovich's score seem slightly less satirically surreal and more vivid, and made the opera's infamous sex scene less like parody.

Balashov, who has been performing at the Mariinsky Theatre just for three years, is just the kind of likable young singer the Kirov is noted for getting on stage while the voice and persona are still in first flush. A robust tenor, he had exactly the right boyish cockiness to allow Sergei to quickly break down Katerina's defenses. His is a career to watch.

Loskutova, a soprano most effective in her darker, lower range, upholds Katerina's dignity even while giving into her more carnal extremes. Though tempestuous, she demonstrates a superb self-possession, impressively maintained through Katerina's degrading, tragic end.

The cruel Boris was sung by Gennady Bezzubenkov, an imposing Russian bass, who had been the comic Priest on Wednesday. But there was yet another fine, imposing Russian bass, Grigory Karassev, tall and funny, to take his priestly place. Victor Vikhrov as a shabby peasant, Alexander Morozov as an old convict and Evgeny Nikitin as an slapstick police sergeant were all able.

*

`Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk'

Where: Kirov Opera performs at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: Today and Sunday, 2 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Price: $30-$170

Contact: (213) 365-3500

Also

Varying casts; Valery Gergiev conducts today and Sunday; Maxim Shostakovich conducts Monday and Tuesday.

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