chapter  3
32 Pages

Five Satires (Pictures of the Past) by Dmitrii Shostakovich (op. 109): The Musical Unity of a Vocal Cycle*

Lady Macbeth came to America almost one year before the Muddle' article appeared, and it provoked discussion in the American press, over the opera's morally perplexing plot and its apparently un-operatic music. Olin Downes famously wrote: Lady Macbeth was the first Soviet opera to receive major critical attention in America. In the late 1920s, proletarian composers in America and in the Soviet Union had been given some attention by the American press. In 1934, when Lady Macbeth was brought to America, Shostakovich's reputation was not fully formed. The political message of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth changed in a profound way for Americans. A new political ideal had been attached to the opera not by its composer, not by its audiences or critics, but by the Soviet government itself. Opera and politics have been intertwined, but never more than in the tale of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, where, as Shakespeare had it, fair is foul and foul is fair.