Macbeth at the Royal Opera House
Verdi’s first version of Macbeth was completed in 1847. It was his first Shakespeare play that he adapted for the operatic stage. This was a golden period of composition by Verdi stretching 16 years, which saw him produce 22 different operas, including, amongst others, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata.
Macbeth also has an 1865 revision produced in a French translation for the Paris Opera House, which was subsequently also translated into Italian and performed that year at La Scala Milan. This 1865 Italian translation remains the preferred version today and is indeed the one adopted by the ROH. It was one of Verdi’s operas that was not performed widely until after the mid-20th century.
The British film director, Phyllida Lloyd, sees her production revived for the third time in the last seven years. It is not a production that will stay in the memory, being rather dark and turgid, but it has much good movement and many powerful images, such as the golden horse for the King, the gilded cage for the crown and the revolving cage for the death of the King, Duncan, as well as the death of Macbeth. Further striking images are the red turbaned witches and the hallucinations of Lady Macbeth at her death, with perhaps the only thing image that didn’t work being the running water tap, the sound of which intruded on the evening’s outstanding musical endeavour.
The Verdi specialist, Antonio Pappano, conducted a dynamic performance, extracting incredible music lines from the wonderful Royal Opera House Orchestra and its magnificent chorus.
Verdi regarded the chorus of witches as his first principal singers and in this production they were supported by a cabal of dancing witches, which added to the atmospheric darkness whenever they performed.
The other two principals were the Macbeth of the 50 year old Serbian baritone, Zeljko Lucic and the Lady Macbeth of the incredible Russian Soprano, Anna Netrebko. Whilst choreography might not be their strong point, vocally both sing to the highest standards.
Lucic is one of the leading Verdi baritones today and he projects his powerful voice throughout the house. He portrays a brooding personality, constantly in terror of what might befall him.
His wife is much more ruthless and content with the constant need to murder opponents or their children. Netrebko has an incredible range and apart from her secure large top, she also has wonderful chest notes to match and is able to promote light and dark, soft and loud, with great ease, as is required for this role. A fabulous performance.
Her real life husband, Azerbaijani tenor, Yusif Eyvazov, has himself a major tenor voice, with an outstanding Italianate ringing quality, leaving the audience wanting more.
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Banquo is nobly sung, as are the other roles, particularly the Jette Parker young singers of Francesca Chiejina, Konu Kim and Simon Shibambu.
Another great 2018 ROH night.