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American conductor James Conlon brings out every nuance in Shostakovich's score, which beautifully underlines the drama unleashed by a solid cast led by dramatic-voiced Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet as Katerina, a bourgeois woman who takes up with another man while her husband is away.
Think of this long, four-act opera as Desperate Housewives set in a late-19th-century Russian backwater: Bored housewife meets handsome drifter, she kills her husband, the adulterers are sent to a prison camp, Katerina sees her new husband eyeing another woman and pushes the woman into the Volga river before throwing herself in, too.
It's not light entertainment, but there's a lot to savour in a fine production. Director Lev Dodin and designer David Borovsky have kept it simple, if exceedingly drab, focusing everything on the main characters. If there is one flaw, it's a lack of electricity between Charbonnet and tenor Sergei Kunaev, who plays her lover. There are no extras in this two-DVD set. -- Thestar.com, John Terauds, January 12, 2010