"As the walls close in around us it is a time not to bury our heads in the sand but to look ourselves directly in the eye."

That's what director Graham Vick had to say in relation to Birmingham Opera Company's 50th production, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Shostakovich's epic opera was famously banned by Stalin in 1936, despite huge international success in Russia and abroad. It wasn't performed again for 25 years.

Fast forward to March 2019 and to the Tower Ballroom, an iconic but disused nightclub by Edgbaston Reservoir. Birmingham Opera Company reopened the doors to stage Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. For five sold-out performances, audiences came face to face with bloodied brides, rats, mourners, wedding guests, axes, poison and "a turkey-cock in leopardprint smalls" (that'd be The Lover, Brenden Gunnell, making his Birmingham Opera Company debut in the role). 

Our collaborators included a chorus and actors comprising over 150 Brummies, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, an on-stage band from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and a cast of outstanding international principals. Alpesh Chauhan conducted, making his UK operatic debut, and the space was "artfully trashed" by Block9, radical set design duo working here on their first ever opera. 

Watch some short clips from the production below!

The Story 

The Wife and her Husband are tyrannised by the Father in Law, bitter that they have not bred him a grandchild.

When the Husband leaves on business, the Wife takes a lover - a new worker. The Father in Law finds out and whips the Lover to the brink of death. The Wife poisons her Father in Law. Determined to make her new found happiness last, she kills the Husband, hides the body and marries the Lover.

The Police, unhappy at not being invited to the wedding, crash the party and find the body.

In prison, the Wife finds out exactly who she has married.

Chrystal E Williams as The Wife 

The Production

Libretto A Preis and D Shostakovich
After the short story by Nikolai Leskov
English version based on the translation by David Pountney
Conductor Alpesh Chauhan 
Director Graham Vick 
Design Block9 
Movement Director Ron Howell 
Lighting Design Giuseppe Di Iorio
Chorus Master Jonathan Laird
Birmingham Opera Company Chorus and Actors

The Cast 

The Wife Chrystal E Williams The Priest James Ioelu
The Father in Law Eric Greene  The Father in Law's Ghost Eric Greene
The Husband Joshua Stewart The Chief of Police Quentin Hayes 
The Lover Brenden Gunnell The Arresting Officer Themba Mvula
The Engineer Themba Mvula The Socialist Edward Harrisson
The Driver Dominick Felix  The Drunken Guest Dominick Felix 
The Maid Grace Nyandoro The Prison Guards Themba Mvula, James Ioelu
The Seedy Lout James Kryshak  The Prisoner Eric Greene 
The Porter Andrew Clarke The Pole Dancer Lilly Papaioannou
The Steward James Ioelu The Other Woman Grace Nyandoro
The Three Foremen Andrew Clarke, Dominick Felix, Jack Sandison


Andrew Clark as The Porter, with chorus members 




The audiences were as enthusiastic as the press: 

"Blew me away."

"Talk about making the inaccessible accessible. And nuts. And just plain awesome really." 

"Now THAT'S how you do opera." 

Lily Papaioannou as The Pole Dancer

Get closer 

Download your FREE Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk e-book.

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Support Us

Did you know that productions like Lady Macbeth are the tip of the iceberg? Our productions are underpinned by over 80 smaller events across the city every year.

We are extremely grateful to Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and to the many Trusts, Foundation and individuals who generously support our work.

If you want to play a part in creating world-class work that inspires thousands from Birmingham and beyond, make a donation below.

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