Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Macbeth// Music by Guiseppe Verdi Libretto by Maria Piave and Andrea Maffei// after William Shakespeare’s drama// Shubert Theater, Boston MA.

Opera by Verdi
Shubert Theater, Boston MA.
November 4 -13, 2011

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

If Shakespeare is the ultimate dramatist, Verdi is arguably his counterpart in opera. In his earlier years Verdi’s La Traviata, Rigoletto and Il Trovatore have become standards of opera company repertoire, while his later operas, considered by many his greatest works include Otello, Faust and Macbeth. This latter one is currently being staged at Boston’s Shubert Theater by the Boston Lyric Opera.

Having previously attended BLO renditions of other operas, including performances by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, this Macbeth can hold its own with any of them.

John Conklin’s set designs are a brilliant depiction of the hell that the characters have made of their own choosing. Off kilter sets reflect the twisted, murderous lives they lead, with lighting used to set mood and props used as ghosts, hands, forests and death.

While knives are the weapon of choice, the appearance of a gun and contemporary clothes reminds us this staging is a modern version of Verdi, not unlike Santa Fe’s production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore updated to a World War II setting.

As for the performances, there is little negative to be said for singers. Daniel Sutin in his BLO debut brings the increasingly insane Macbeth to chilling life. His voice is strong, clear and powerful, his acting well matched to the role, particularly in dealing with the ghost of Banquo, who is amply sung and acted by Darren K. Stokes. Carter Scott, also in her BLO debut as Lady Macbeth, is convincing as the “behind every king there is an ambitious woman” and like her husband grows increasingly insane, unable to get the blood off her hands. Her voice is of top operatic quality, her pronunciations flawless and her ability to convey her insanity emphasize her acting ability.

A highlight of the opera is sung by Richard Crawley who as Macduff garnered a well deserved ovation with his stirring aria bemoaning the murder of his family and his determination to bring down Macbeth.

In fairness to the other singers, tenors rather than baritones always seem to gather more applause and cheers. And that is a shame because both Sutin and Stokes have excellent voices and display them well. And Stokes makes one scary ghost.

As for the score, Conductor David Angus elicits the maximum from his orchestra. While Verdi’s score is at times, well, Verdi, meaning at times a bit light for the drama, Angus manages to keep the music in tempo with the action, trauma and drama of this wonderful opera.

The Boston audiences was enthusiastic about this opera performance and by the end there
wereloud sustained applause, well deserved by the cast, conductor and everyone who made this opening night performance a success.

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