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February 2024

Boston Symphony Orchestra Brings Opera Back to Carnegie Hall

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Carnegie Hall, 1/30/24
by Pete Matthews

While I will always and forever cherish my summers seeing the Boston Symphony Orchestra up in their summer home at Tanglewood, it's always a treat (not to mention a convenience) to catch them here in NYC, where they've played Carnegie Hall just about every year since it opened in 1891. Some of those concerts have been among my most memorable experiences at Carnegie, such as Seiji Ozawa leading a 2001 performance of Berlioz' Requiem in tribute to the victims of 9/11, or the gargantuan forces assembled for Mahler's 8th symphony in James Levine's first appearance as Music Director in 2004.

The BSO returned to Carnegie this week with a pair of concerts under current Music Director Andris Nelsons that displayed an impressive breadth of repertoire. On Monday, they performed a colorful program that included Tania León's Pulitzer Prize-winning Stride, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (with Seong Jin-Cho) and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. I wasn't in the hall that night, but was able to hear the concert from the comfort of my couch thanks to WQXR's Carnegie Hall Live program; the Rite, in particular, was both deliberate and ferocious. (Soon, you'll be able to hear an archive broadcast of the concert here.)

I did, however, make it to last night's performance: an ambitious concert performance of Shostakovich's 1934 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. (The performance was rescheduled from April 2021 due to COVID.) Under Nelsons, who grew up in Latvia (formerly part of the Soviet Union), the BSO has recently completed a decade-long survey of Shostakovich's symphonies (all recorded for Deutsche Grammophon), so it's only natural that they now turn to Shostakovich's one traditional opera. (His earlier absurdist experiment The Nose appeared at the Met for the first time in 2010.) Begun when Shostakovich was only 24, Lady Macbeth shows a remarkable command of orchestration, a bounty of colorful, expressive singing - and one helluva juicy story about a woman trapped in a sexless marriage who seeks out - and finds - sex with someone else. Which leads to all kinds of trouble.

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