Downtrodden housewife Katerina is seduced by Sergey. They are spotted by Katerina's father-in-law Boris. Katerina poisons Boris and with Sergey's help murders her husband Zinovy.
At Katerina and Sergey's wedding Zinovy's body is discovered. They are deported to a prison camp. There Sergey taunts Katerina with his new lover Sonyetka. Katerina drowns herself, taking Sonyetka with her.
Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century. It was acclaimed as such at its premiere in 1934, and enjoyed tremendous success - until 1936, when political disapproval led both to the opera's repression by the Soviet authorities and to years of persecution for Shostakovich. The fates of composer and opera eventually recovered, with Lady Macbeth a precious survivor from that dark period. It is now celebrated as the great operatic statement from a composer who, in other circumstances, might have made many other contributions to the genre.
Richard Jones's 2004 production - The Royal Opera's first of Shostakovich's original 1932 version - was rapturously acclaimed at its premiere. Jones combines darkest tragedy with mordant satirical humour in a production described by the Financial Times as 'ingeniously conceived and devastatingly executed' and by The Independent as 'a benchmark alchemy of music and theatre'.