A starkly cold fishing village in Northern Norway, a male-dominated society, a loveless marriage, an absent husband, a warm and willing lover, a quick-tempered father-in-law, a poisoned meal, a hidden body, a surprising return, a wedding with complications and a woman with sensational dynamism. These are the main ingredients of Dmitri Shostakovich's tragic satire Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, staged here in a new production by Ole Anders Tandberg.
The opera is based on an 1865 novel by Nikolai Leskov. Inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth it depicts an unscrupulous woman who kills both her father-in-law and husband in order to follow her desires and satisfy her lusts. But Shostakovich's music gives her a depth that makes her more sympathetic. The composer justified this choice thus: «To Leskov the woman is a murderer. I see her as a complex, tragic force of nature. She is a woman full of love, a deeply sensitive woman, in no way without feelings.» The result is a fascinating woman: strong and weak, affectionate and ambitious, sensitive and brutal, uncertain and unscrupulous, warm and cool, calculating and unpredictable. With the story of this dynamic woman, Shostakovich moves in the area between tragedy and comedy. The music is a blend of grotesque, beautiful, lyrical, dramatic, ironic and humorous – like a little scary laughter in the cold darkness.