The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0081  Wednesday, 1 March 2006

From: 		Jane Susanna Ennis<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 28 Feb 2006 14:47:48 -0000 (GMT)
Subject: 	MACBETH at Royal Opera House


Giuseppe Verdi, MACBETH
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Friday 24th. February 2006

MACBETH:          Thomas Hampson
BANQUO:           John Relyea
LADY MACBETH:     Violeta Urmana
LADY-IN-WAITING:  Elizabeth Woolett
MACDUFF:          Joseph Calleja
MALCOLM:          Andrew Stritheran*
DOCTOR:           Robert Gleadow*
*Jette Parker Young Artists

CONDUCTOR:        Yakov Kreizberg
DIRECTOR:         Phyllida Lloyd
LIGHTING:         Paule Constable
CHOREOGRAPHY:     Michael Keegan Dolan

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

A good and exciting performance, which sometimes rose to heights of 
excellence. Yakov Kreizberg favoured a brisk tempo at the opening, which 
perhaps was more expressive of Macbeth's martial valour than of the 
atmosphere of sinister malevolence which should brood over the entire 
work, but the tempo was less brisk during the scenes where a more 
leisurely tempo is important - the Sleepwalking Scene especially.

Thomas Hampson as Macbeth sounded slightly tentative at first, but, as I 
indicated, rose to heights of excellence as the work progressed. Thus he 
wasn't quite confident in conveying the idea of Macbeth as a brave 
soldier and loyal subject, but very effective in conveying the 
disintegration of a mind steeped in crime and not able to draw back. His 
"pieta, rispetto, amore" was indeed Shakespearean in tone! His voice is 
perhaps more lyrical than dramatic, but I don't find this a fault.

He was well-matched by Violeta Urmana's Lady Macbeth, though it has to 
be admitted that, on the night I saw the performance, she couldn't 
manage the high D flat at the end of the Sleepwalking Scene - it's 
supposed to almost fade away into nothingness, but she gave a gulp as 
she missed the note.  Still, this was the only fault in an otherwise 
very convincing performance; I was especially impressed with the 
interaction between her and Hampson in the duet after he has committed 
the murder, not just vocally but dramatically as well - his torment when 
he hears the voice saying "Macbeth shall sleep no more", and her 
indifference to his conscience. She was very forceful in the letter 
scene, and almost pitiable in the Sleepwalking Scene.

John Relyea has a deep, sonorous bass, and delivered Banquo's aria with 
conviction, and Joseph Calleja made the most of "Ah, la paterna mano", 
which is the tenor's "consolation prize" in this opera which 
concentrates on the baritone and the soprano.

The stage in Phyllida's Lloyd's uncluttered production was predominantly 
dark, and the shafts of light that occurred at crucial moments were thus 
unexpected and very effective. The witches are dressed in black, with 
red headdresses. Duncan is dressed in gold, and appears at the back of 
the stage on a gold-draped horse.....and this golden appearance is 
parodied by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the Banquet Scene; they look 
slightly ill-at-ease in their new finery, and I wondered if this was a 
reference to Shakespeare clothing imagery; at one point Macbeth, when 
told he is to be Thane of Cawdor, asks "Why do you dress me in borrowed 

The scene in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are visited by children is, 
according to Phyllida Lloyd, a definite reference to Shakespeare; not 
only Macduff's children (who do not appear in the opera), but also to 
the repeated images of barrenness that occur in the play with reference 
to the Macbeths. (Macduff's vengeance can never be complete, because "he 
has no children").

Another coup de theatre occurred as the screens rose to show Duncan's 
body, lying on the bed covered in blood - this doesn't usually happen 
even in productions of the play, and it came as a shock. We also see the 
execution of the Thane of Cawdor.

To sum up - a good performance, musically and dramatically, and also 
visually effective.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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