Ole Anders Tandberg’s production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is an unqualified triumph and one of the very best things that the house of Bismarckstrasse has done in the past decade.
Tandberg’s staging is subdued and focused staging, with surreal touches that stand out for their jarring qualities and occasional menace. Amid the simple house and rocks that represent the Ismailov estate, the stage is strewn with large fish, which are often wielded by Boris Timofeyevich and his workers. In the libretto, the Mtsensk province produces grain, and the heaps of enormous fish onstage lend a distinctly Nordic flavor to the production. The general sense of cold is enhanced by a muted color scheme and flat lighting. Tandberg’s most daring idea is to have a marching band of overgrown schoolgirls in uniform (there were a few men in wigs thrown in there) follow Katarina across stage during pivotal moments in the drama; the lightest and most irreverent is the chorus of policemen ironing their pants in unison.