Martin Amis's new novel, which I don't like, has the general and eternal shittiness of Russia as a central theme. Since I have so little experience of things Russian, Shostakovich's opera Lady MacBeth of Mtensk also seems to me to be about the eternal shittiness of Russia, which might be why Stalin banned it though it seemed to be critical more of a pre-Revolutionary bourgeois uselessness than anything to do with anything Stalin seemed likely to have liked.
I like Shostakovich awfully because of the way he can make something upsetting and unsettling tuneful and engaging, and this opera follows. I think most commentators say it's about boredom. And I think those commentators are all men who can't bring themselves to admit it's about intense female sexual frustration. I mean, she's been married for years and she was a virgin, for god's sake. Yeah - "boredom." Wankers. Anyways - I caught myself suspending disbelief several times, thanks to the music and excellent ensemble singing bringing the squalid, squalid plot into painful believability. Fucking squalid, man.
But wonderful staging, wonderful cast, wonderful music. A little nudity, too. Just girly nudity - there were sex scenes and the tenor didn't get his pants off. I couldn't suspend my disbelief then, which just made it funny since they were sort of going at it to the music, which I find with Shostakovich always has a faint breath of polka rhythm to it. And if there's anything funnier than dry humping to polka, I haven't thought of it. I also thought it was highly condescending that the orchestral interlude was dubbed "The Psychological Heart of the Opera" in the surtitles when the curtain came down; that deserved the wave of laughter it generated from the audience. The music spoke for itself, and while Toronto audiences may be a bit troggy they're not going to get up and start having loud conversations about adenoids over their ringing cellphones while the orchestra continues to play. Jeebus, give us some credit.
Anyways, may I ask what the fuck is up with Russia? Some of the world's most beautiful music, film, literature and architecture; apparently the best ice cream in the world - but at what fucking price, man? That place is fucked up. Hecatomb after hecatomb. A series of iron fists to the face of its neighbours and its own population - always this rampaging territorial insecurity, at the governmental level at least - and drunk, drunk, drunk. I don't think they lost the Cold War; I think they just had to call a time out for a few decades while the governing class slept it off.