An all-star cast made Harry Kupfer’s production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” the centerpiece of the Staatsoper’s lopsided first season back in his historic home in 2018. The then-82-year-old directing legend, a former intendant at the Komische Oper who furnished the Staatsoper’s celebrated Wagner cycle (the Ring made it to Bayreuth) nearly 20 years ago, has seen all of his classic productions for this house dismantled.

Kufper opted for the dark and glossy executive cool of a modern luxury hotel. Whenever I’ve encountered his recent productions, including his 2014 Salzburg “Rosenkavalier” and his 2016 Berlin “Fidelio,” outfitted with Hans Schavernoch’s sets, Yan Tax’s costumes and Thomas Reimer’s video, I feel I am standing in the lobby of a Sofitel watching expensively dressed cooperate types breeze by. I might be able to overcome my resistance to Kupfer’s slick late-career aesthetic, were there any hint of a conceptual underpinning to these productions.

This vaguely militaristic “Macbeth,” set amid burning oil fields, construction sites (including Berlin’s fiasco-prone new airport), and even Scottish castles, somehow managed to be murky, incongruous and conventional all at once. By far the most impressive aspect was the multi-leveled set, which fluidly rose and sank thanks to the Staatsoper’s new computerized stage machinery. One of Kupfer’s few interpretive touches was having Lady Macbeth silently cross the stage during the overture, cradling a dead infant in her arms. (That the Macbeths have lost a child is hinted at in the play and commonly suggested to help explain their bloodthirstiness).    

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES: 23. 26. 30. Mai 2019