I couldn't initially put my finger on why I liked this outdoor production of Verdi's Macbeth so much. From the very outset, I sat riveted throughout the performance, despite the fact I noticed many flaws. The production, headed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, is one of those modern ones, with one dominant set piece on the stage and little else. In this case it is a long red-carpeted runway, ascending from left to right. There are also some steps on the far right leading to a throne. Throughout the opera there is liberal use of rising mist, which certainly adds to the spooky atmosphere, despite what some might perceive as a B-movie effect.
The costuming is colorful, if sometimes boldly garish, with black attire often contrasted by red vinyl, and headwear that wouldn't be out of place in an old Flash Gordon serial. The makeup may be a bit over the top, too: Lady Macbeth has a "goth" look, and might at times almost pass as a punk rocker.
The singing? There isn't a major name in the cast, but all pass muster. Giuseppe Altomare is a good Macbeth, both vocally and dramatically. The Lady Macbeth of Ohla Zhuravel is the one controversial performer here: her singing has a fairly constant vibrato, or wobble, although her voice is decent enough. Her acting, however, is spectacular. You really sense she is Lady Macbeth: she is determined, intense and fanatical – and she casts some looks that COULD kill! The rest of the cast is fine, especially Rubens Pelizzari as Macduff: try his Act IV O figli, o figli miei… for one of this production's finer moments. Another highlight is the ballet segment at the beginning of Act III, which features beautiful choreography (by Gheorghe Iancu) and splendid dancing.
The orchestra? They play with spirit and accuracy for the insightful Daniele Callegari, whose tempos and phrasing are most thoughtfully conceived. So, you ask, why did I like this production so much? Quite simply, it succeeds fabulously in uniting Verdi's brilliant (and still underrated) score with Shakespeare's dark story, from well-conceived overhead camera shots of the stage action, to the brilliant and atmospherically chilling singing of the chorus. The sound reproduction is excellent, too. While I could cite bigger-name casts who have sung this opera better (Rysanek, Warren, Bergonzi, et. al.), I'm not sure I'd want to trade any of the singers in this cast for anyone else, past or present. They all seem a near-perfect fit in this deliciously twisted rendition of Macbeth. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 2009, Robert Cummings