Klaus Grünberg’s sets will be back on stage at Opernhaus Zürich, CH, starting April 23, 2017.


Premiered in Florence in 1847, Macbeth is the first opera by Verdi after a Shakespeare drama. Based on the libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, Verdi’s version revolves around the hunger for power and its incontrovertible attraction. A depiction of ruthless politics in 11th century Scotland, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plot and act in order to guarantee their place on the throne, instigated by the prophecies of a group of witches. Their merciless actions will finally turn them into fearful, paranoid figures who then fall down into ruin.

The design

The sets created by Klaus Grünberg for Barrie Kosky’s Macbeth are of brilliant simplicity. The stage is left empty and completely dark except for light spots where the characters seem to be floating in the darkness.

Klaus Grünberg Macbeth M. Rittershaus

Starting point for the production team was the intention to completely isolate the two protagonists and to make the choir invisible, Grünberg told Scenography Today.

Klaus Grünberg Macbeth M. Rittershaus

He decided to isolate the principals using light only. Because Macbeth and Lady are strongly illuminated downstage, the spectator cannot adapt their vision to the darkness of the remaining stage, which hence becomes a dark vacuum. In this black “nothing”, the witches and the choir can resound completely unseen, leaving the spectator uncertain whether Macbeth’s murderous impetus is caused by an external or internal incitement. At the same time, the couple isolated in the spot of light appears to be constrained in an inescapable relationship.

Klaus Grünberg Macbeth M. Rittershaus

Traits of light in the black emptiness of the stage create the illusion of a rectangular tunnel, whose end is lost in space and time: «an inevitable path» but also a «timeline», as Grünberg said. The corridor’s perspective focal point appears to be centred on the Macbeth couple. Witches emerge from the dark background, as in the protagonists’ paranoid minds, immersed in their psychodrama.

Klaus Grünberg Macbeth M. Rittershaus

The special floating effect lent to the characters is obtained by using upward illumination. The spot of light under the hanging lamp is actually produced by linear LED lights placed under the stage floor, which was locally substituted by acrylic panels. The panels’ surface was treated with net fabric to perfectly integrate with the rest of the stage and to be disguised when not back illuminated. The scattered light effect at the borders, produced by the texture, is remarkable.

Groups of naked bodies advancing as a block are made even more surreal by projecting on them their own moving image.

Klaus Grünberg was born in Hamburg and studied set design in Vienna with Erich Wonder. He has been working ever since as a freelance set and lighting designer at theatres and opera houses in Europe, South America and the Middle East. He has worked, among the others, with directors Tatjana Gürbaca, Barrie Kosky, Sebastian Baumgarten, André Wilms, Thilo Reinhardt, Antoine Gindt, Christof Nel and Heiner Goebbels.

In 1999 he opened the MOMOLMA (Museum of More or Less Modern Art) in Hamburg.
He was nominated for the German FAUST theatre prize 2011 and for the International Opera Award 2015.

Klaus Grünberg – Macbeth (G. Verdi) – 2016
Staging Barrie Kosky
Set design Klaus Grünberg
Associate set designerAnne Kuhn
Costume design Klaus Bruns
Light design Klaus Grünberg
Photo credits Monika Rittershaus