Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Conductor: Vassilis Christopoulos
Director: Fanny Ardant
PREMIERE 12 MAY 2019
12, 15, 17, 19, 22 May 2019
20th CENTURY CYCLE
Greek National Opera - Stavros Niarchos Hall
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Starts at: 19.30 (Sundays at 18.30)
Sets: Tobias Hoheisel
Costumes: Milena Canonero
Lighting: Luca Bigazzi
Chorus master: Agathangelos Georgakatos
With the GNO Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists
Ticket prices: €15, €20, €35, €40, €50, €55, €60, €90
Students, reduced: €15 / Limited visibility: €10
One of the most famous operas of the 20th century comes back to the Greek National Opera after almost a quarter of a century. Based on a novel by Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk treats the subject of woman’s position in the provincial society. At the same time, Shostakovich outlines exceptionally critical portraits of institutions such as the church and the police. The work became worldwide known in 1936 when, after Stalin had visited the performance, newspaper “Pravda”, an official instrument of the communist party, published an article titled “Confusion instead of music” condemning the music as vulgar, rough and petit bourgeois, and criticizing the work’s positive stance toward its murderess protagonist. The opera was banned in the Soviet Union and it was performed only after the death of Stalin, in 1962, in a new version. Today the work is performed almost exclusively in its original version, allowing audiences worldwide to enjoy its inspired, tense and powerful music.
The Greek National Opera has assigned the direction of Shostakovich’s masterpiece to Fanny Ardant, an important figure in the world of French cinema and theatre. Ardant, a star of 60 films and 30 plays, Truffaut’s muse, Zeffirelli and Polanski’s protagonist and Depardieu’s unsurpassed partner, collaborates for the first time with the Greek National Opera, after her first direction of a musical theatre work, Sondheim’s Passion, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, in 2016.
Through this production Ardant introduces to the Greek audience two great collaborators: distinguished German set designer Tobias Hoheisel and famous costume designer Milena Canonaro, who has won four Oscars for Best Costume Design (Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire, Sofia Coppola’s Maria Antoinette and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel), was the costume designer in movies, such as: The Clockwork Orange, The Midnight Express, Out of Africa, as well as in important opera productions at the Metropolitan Opera, the Paris Opera, the Teatro Alla Scala, the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera, among others.
The director states: “Lady Macbeth puts before us a mirror. And we look at ourselves in it. Lady Macbeth is our wild reflection, restless and free. How can the part of ourselves which fights back against laws survive in a conventional and uniform society? To love criminals is a risk. And I take it. I love Katerina Izmailova. She is not only one of Leskov’s characters in an opera of Shostakovich; she is also an ever-present person even in our own time; and if we pay attention, we may meet it. I love those who are not afraid of the verdict, the sanctions of society, the parties, the groups, the collective thinking. I watch them walking on a tightrope, fragile perhaps, but vibrating and incandescent. I dread the moment they will fall. I understand that they prefer to die than to destroy their dreams. I admit that they are a danger to the society of merchants and profits. I admire the cost they are prepared to pay in order to remain free and follow their passion. Being accountable is part of their own rules of the game. I am glad they have journeyed through life like stars in a solar system whose sun is black. I adore the story of Katerina, the Lady Macbeth from the province of Mtsensk. To me she is like a picture. I received her as a gift which I would like to offer you. I told myself: Time, politics don’t matter. Context, circumstances don’t matter. Laws don’t matter. There will always be those who obey and those who order, the follower and the leader, the one waiting in line and the other who just leaves it, one day or another, after having waited for long for the real and violent joy, because life’s calling is more powerful than anything else. And so, I keep Lady Macbeth in the region of Mtsensk, in her province, in the Tsars’ empire, in her environment, the one of merchants. Shostakovich’s music even richer and with a starker contrast than the text itself, recounts to us the complexity of Katerina and her rivals, how her melancholy was overpowered by anger, blasphemy and the act that cannot be undone, how this contradictory and scandalous heroine makes us want to live, even -and for the most part- dangerously. And since the Greek shores have welcomed me, may the Olympian Gods - if they deign to look at me- guide and protect me.”