It's not that New York doesn't get plenty of chances to see Macbeth: It's one of Shakespeare's most frequently revived tragedies, with a combination of blood, magic and poetry that continues to sieze audiences by the neck more than four centuries after it was written. But Ninagawa Macbeth, first mounted in 1980 by the late master director Yukio Ninagawa, is not your usual revival of the Scottish Play. For one thing, it's in Japanese.
Like Akira Kurosawa's 1957 Throne of Blood, one of the great Shakespeare movies of all time, Ninagawa's version of Macbeth moves the action from 11th-century Scotland to feudal Japan. Staged on an outsize version of a household altar, or butsudan, this acclaimed epic production offers a world of samurai, kabuki witches and swirling cherry blossom, set against a score that melds Buddhist chant and Western music by Gabriel Fauré and Samuel Barber. Performances are in Japanese, with English translation.
Ninagawa Macbeth was last mounted in New York in 1990 as part of BAM's Next Wave Festival. This revival, the final production overseen by Ninegawa himself before his death in 2016, is offered under the aegis of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, which has expanded beyond its titular mandate this year to absorb a few shows that might previously have been part of the now-defunct Lincoln Center Festival. (Another non-Mozart offering this year: Mark Morris Dance Company's The Trout, a world premiere set to chamber music by Franz Schubert.)
You have probably never seen a Macbeth quite like this, and you probably won't have a chance again: Its four performances at Lincoln Center in July will be the production's final bow before it is permanently retired. Out, out, brief candle!