MacBeth - Giuseppe Verdi - Royal Opera House - Covent Garden
What an evening I have experienced!
! The body of Duncan, King of Scotland,
lying in stage with so much blood
I had to cover my mouth to stop myself
from screeching waaa!!! !!! ! ! That
ketchup (or whatever they used) looked
so much like blood it was amazing!
I was impressed. And what a story!
They call it Verdi's Scottish Opera.
The opera is actually set in Scotland
and on the borders of England, and
is based on Shakespeare's play. Verdi
concentrates on two main characters:
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. There were
also witches, whom I thoroughly enjoyed;
they predict that Macbeth will become
Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland
after he kills the present King Duncan.
Macbeth wasn't a rich man and Lady
Macbeth drives him to murder for power
and money. Still not happy she convinces
him to kill Banquo, who would eventually
be the father of all future kings
of Scotland (as predicted by the witches).
Banquo is murdered, but his ghost
returns to haunt Macbeth, which drives
him to insanity. Lady Macbeth is a
repellent character, who has lost
her mind on goes on sleepwalking like
a Shakespeare "Sleeping Beauty".
Later, she is horrified by what she
has instigated and she dies. Macduff,
who was the greatest threat to Macbeth
and who was not born naturally, but
rather "untimely ripp'd"
from his mother's womb, leads his
troops to murder Macbeth. After Macbeth
is killed Macduff proclaims Malcolm,
the son of King Duncan, the rightful
heir to the throne.
Macbeth is thought to be the first
masterpiece of Verdi. When the production
arrived in Naples, Verdi was very
insistent that Lady Macbeth should
be ugly and sing with a hard, stifled,
dark voice - the voice of the devil,
which meant character before beauty.
But the singer Tadlini was beautiful
and sang with perfection. The original
Lady Macbeth was Mariana Barieri-Nini
(1820-87); she practised her sleepwalking
scene for three months to meet Verdi's
exacting standards. Macbeth was first
written for the Teatre della Pergola
in Florence, when Verdi was 32 years
old. Felice Varesi (1813-89) played
the first Macbeth. Varesi has noted
that this opera was "too foreign,
too obviously in the fantastical genre,
too artist and too modern." However,
Macbeth was Verdi's favourite opera.
The Libretto was by Francesco Maria
Piave and Andrea Maffei and was written
after the Shakespearean play. Verdi
wrote about Shakespeare after some
people said they didn't know much
about him." He is a favourite
poet of mine, whom I had in hand from
my earliest young, and whom I read
and reread constantly." (said
Verdi). (The French version in 1865
was with new text by Charles Nuitter
and A. Beaumont. )In 1847 Verdi presented
three operas in eight months - Macbeth
in Firense, I Masnadieri at her Majesty's
Theatre in London, and Jerusalem in
Paris. The version I saw at Covent
Garden was the one performed in 1865.
This co-production was scheduled for
ROH in 1997, but for logistic and
technical reasons was delayed until
today and opened as a joint venture
with the Bastille Opera, which was
opened in Paris in 1998. This is an
all-female production. The Director
was Phyllida Lloyd, who is famous
for theatre production at the Nation
Theatre for operas such as The Prime
of Miss Jean Brodie and The Way of
the World. For the Almeida she has
produced Dona Rosita, The Spinster,
and, of course, the well-known Mamma
Mia! - which was a huge success in
London's West End and on Broadway.
She says, "Doing it at all was
a huge miracle that just landed in
my lap. It has taken me all over the
world. Now I want to get on and do
those less-lucrative theatre things
its success enables me to do."
She has become one of the finest opera
directors since the staging of Britain's
Gloriana at the Opera North and since
the production of an award-winning
TV film, for which she won an Emmy.
Macbeth is a difficult opera to direct
- metaphysics and psychology, apparition
and reality are confused. Macbeth
is surrounded by hissing witches,
asleep on separate beds from the Lady,
while oppressed Scottish refuges invade
their chamber, while singing Verdi's
Patria Oppress! . Lloyd makes great
use of the crack of light from Duncan's
bedroom door; we see Banquo's ghost
once and Macbeth sees him twice. I
love this bold staging; I love the
colours, the dresses, the designs
(by Anthgony Ward), the lighting (by
Paul Constable), and the choreography
(by Michael Keegna-Dolan). The witches'
ballet full of colour and faces that
looked like hell was amazing.
Maria Guleghina played Lady Macbeth.
Maria was born in Odessa and made
her debut at La Scala in 1987. Her
repertory consists of more than 26
roles the most noted being Tosca,
Lady Macbeth, Aida, Norma, Manon Lescaut,
Oberto, Otello, Nabucco, II Tabarro
and Andrea Chenier. For this Macbeth
she was formidable, together with
the British baritone, Anthony Michaels
as Macbeth. There is a scene where
they are both dressed in gold and
Macbeth loses his mind at the coronation
feast (there was not a banquet, but
they were the only ones with glasses
drinking to their power). The night
would have pleased Verdi as it did
The other female concerned with the
production of Macbeth was the conductor,
Simone Young. She was born in Sydney
and made her debut with the Australian
Opera in 1985; she and her family
now live in Sussex, England (but they
have a house in Sydney too). She conducted
the orchestra with great care and
the chorus was absolutely the best!
She is in much demand at the opera
houses around the world. In fact,
at the moment she is preparing for
Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and
Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera and for
her debut with Placido Domingo in
Puccini's La Fanciulla del West. Next
season she will produce Berg's Lulu.
As the Artist and Music Director at
the Opera Australia, she had aroused
controversy and the headline in the
newspaper was, "Woman Conductors
Take Over Down Under". (the Melbourne
opera season invited more woman conductors
than men with American conductors
such as Karen Kamensek and Julia de
Plater and the English conductor at
the Cologne Opera, as well as Jane
Glover and Sian Edwards. Simone Young
says, "A lot of what we view
as resistance to women on the podium
is actually nothing to do with musicians.
It's a perception of the people viewing
it from the outside, be they management,
board or audience; envisaging what
the problems might be. If singers
and instrumentalists have someone
in front of them who is capable of
encouraging them to play in a slightly
different way, approach a piece in
from a different angle, then their
job is more interesting and challenging.
But conducting professionally is a
tough life. I've spent far too much
time away from my family and that's
hard on them, on me and on my husband.
I can't deny that this career needs
emotional strength, and maybe some
woman aren't prepared to make those
sacrifices in their personal life."
She was the first female to conduct
at the renowned musical institution,
the Vienna State Opera (in 1993),
the Opera Batille in Paris, Munich,
Hamburg and Tokyo. She was also the
first woman to conduct in the "Holiest
of Holy" Brucknerhaus in Linz.
She says, "I'm only 41, but I
was fortunate in achieving so many
of my goals quickly. I am a perfectionist,
and I drive myself hard and probably
most of the people around me, too."
She goes scuba diving and she is a
cricket fan; she even escaped from
rehearsals of Macbeth to watch her
eldest daughter, Yvann, play cricket.