‘This opera contains very explicit scenes of sex and violence’

That’s the sales pitch for Antwerp’s new Calixto Bieito production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

It’s not a parental warning. It’s the opera company’s promotional pitch, the one that’s supposed to sell seats.

Personally, if I wanted sex and violence, I would go to a specialist supplier.

This opera house seems to have lost the plot.

See the promotion here.



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  • Isn’t the erotic element one of the things that set off Stalin, aside from the music? Interestingly, on the worldwide cinema transmission of Massenet’s Werther Saturday, the final scene was described as having sex and violence!

    • You know… there is a difference between erotic and porno.

      Yes, sure, there is sex in the score, it is written by Shostakovitsch and you can hear it in the music. But: do you need to _see_ it? It makes the music much weaker.

  • I’m intrigued by the spelling of Shostakovich on the poster? Is this a Dutch transliteration of the Russian? I don’t recall coming across this version of his name before.

    I wonder if anyone has ever been brave enough to whisper to Mr Bieito the magic words: “Less is more”?

  • Each language must use the combinations of letters that match the sounds of the original language, in the present case Russian. Here are a few examples of how the Russian composer’s name looks in other languages (I hope that the diacriticals in the Czech and Turkish versions will display correctly): Chostakovitch (French) , Schostakowitsch (German), Shostakovich (English), Sjostakovitj (Danish, Swedish), Sjostakovitsj (Finnish, Dutch), Šostakovič (Czech), Şostakoviç (Turkish) , Sostakovics (Hungarian), Szostakowicz (Polish).

  • Forgive me for pointing out that entire plot cycles around an explicitly illicit affair, which is well and truly consummated as part of the plot. Why wouldn’t you include a bit of rumpy pumpy in a production?

  • It is certainly more than implied in the opera. And that did upset Stalin, mass-murderer and prude. But isn’t this in people’s mind-set still, much less likely to censor extreme violence in film and TV than sexual scenes.

  • It is a parental warning AND a promotional pitch.

    Surely you are aware that Vlaamse did a quite successful run of Weill’s Mahagonny when Calixto Bieto directed previously for them. That production was purchased and performed also by Opernhaus Graz in Austria last season.

    In short, this is not Vlaamse opera’s first rodeo. Perhaps your question should shift from why explicit content is included in their season to why people want to come and see it.

    • He also did the worst production of anything I have ever seen, Don Giovanni at the ENO. Who have had a few recent turkeys too, of course.

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