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MacBeth Massacre

A play by Shakespeare

Macbeth Massacre is an original production utilizing text from William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth and music/song from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. The special World Premiere celebrates One World Theatre 10th Anniversary Year and brings back the international team that presented the celebrated 2016 fusion opera Arjuna’s Dilemma in Patan Durbar Square.


Macbeth Massacre promises to bring the excitement and power of two great works of art in a fusion of theatre and opera with Shakespearean verse, sections in the Nepali language, and an Italian libretto. This modern dress production takes place on a field before a shirred off ruin of a Rana palace, which recalls the 19th Century era of Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana.


Scenographer Greg Mitchell, Associate Professor of at the University of San Diego, designer for Arjuna’s Dilemma and The Flight, uses powerful projections and lights on the long-abandoned Rana palace. In an immersive experience, the audience is seated in the middle of a battlefield surrounded by bonfires, torches, and bullhorns. Witches seem to rise out of the mist and the earth amongst them, and the Witches’ Apparitions walk along the mysterious upper corridors. Lady Macbeth leaves bloody handprints on the walls and Macbeth seems to wade through blood. 


Shakespeare’s Scottish play predominates in the first part of the performance when the triumphant Generals Macbeth and Banquo are greeted by the prophetic witches, choreographed by Alize Biannic who also appears as Hecate. At the fateful entrance of King Duncan to Cawdor Castle, the Verdi singers of Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth begin to stir and descend from the dusty upper reaches of the castle ruin, dressed in extravagant period costumes. These Royal Ghosts start to overtake and blend with the actions and conscience of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and enact bloody massacre, like a reoccurring curse, a national memory or a rising blood lust. 

Soon the opera singers join the ghosts of the murdered King Duncan and Banquo to haunt Macbeth’s banquet, set in the lavish style of the Rana Maharaja, and follow the downward spiral of the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into sleeplessness and madness. Macbeth only courageously rouses himself when Malcom, son of King Duncan, advances on the castle carrying branches, again enveloping the audience in a modern and mythic battlefield.


In an exciting musical juxtaposition, the basic Verdi score is played at the keyboard by the brilliant Jonathan Khuner, with other instrumentalists joining in quasi-improvisatorially on both western and eastern instruments. The Shakespeare is lightly underscored in a more improvised fashion, and with more reliance on eastern instruments, while the Verdi sections are performed with keyboard accompaniment rather strictly as composed, and western classical instruments adding to the harmonic and melodic givens. Some sections, delivered in Nepali, are repetitions of material first set forth in English and particularly powerful accompanied by Eastern or amalgamated music, and more highlighted interpretive dance. Music piped in from other directions echoes through the halls.


Belief in witchcraft, overweening ambition, and the murder of kings in the earlier Rana era and the Palace Massacre in 2001 are themes that will resonate in Nepal, especially with the splendid historic Rana era costumes mixed with modern Nepali dress: women in sari, and the men in Nepali Army uniforms and daura suruwal. For contemporary America, magical thinking, conspiracy theories, and a President who some fear would be King can strike a chord. In both countries, the haunting memory of civil war, assassination and murder can strike fear. However, both the transcendent dramatic text and operatic score circle into a great moral center that ultimately is reassuring about the cost of evil and the triumph of good.

Created and directed by OWT Artistic Director Deborah Merola and Music Director/Music Arranger Jonathan Khuner of the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, Macbeth Massacre will feature stage actor Rajkumar Pudasaini in the dramatic role of Macbeth, as well as in very special cameos, the international opera performers Roy Stevens and Annalisa Winberg appear in the sung roles, supported by celebrated OWT Company Actors and the Kathmandu Chorale.