Friday, November 11, 2011


“Blood and murder ignite us”–Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, duet, Act II

Blood and murder fueled the intense production of Boston Lyric Opera’s Macbeth this past Wednesday at The Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre. Although many people know the story of Macbeth—from those who studied the play in school to those who are Shakespeare aficionados-- the libretto and composition of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth do not always follow the source material.

The score is filled with both sinister and powerful musical themes matched well with equally ominous text or parts of the plot. But, Verdi also composed interesting and specific harmonic choices, some that almost seem too bright or “major” sounding for what is actually being communicated. Those elements of the score, accompanied by David Schweizer’s abstract directorial choices and John Conklin’s somewhat primitive-looking artistry, are very creepy. In many instances this eerie juxtaposition comes to life through the chorus, whose controlled sound and jagged movements dominate several scenes.

At the outset during the overture, a stark stage of a single metal platform greeted the audience. Above this hung dozens of body bags; an unsettling images even for the most “seasoned” opera patron. The Macbeth’s lust for power increases as do the number of unjustified murders, and this progression is visually represented as death on the stage. With each murder (Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macduff and Lady Macbeth), the dead haunt the stage dressed in white. Whether depicted in the dangling body bags or lingering in poignant scenes, it seemed that the dead never quite leave this world, which provided the supernatural effect to the production. At the same time, this highlighted the underlying psychological effects each death has on the progression of the plot. The presence of the dead continues until the final moments of the opera when Macbeth is murdered by Macduff after his one final bloody attempt to maintain his position of power. He is then engulfed by the chorus, who wrap him and raise him up to join the other portentous body bags.

Throughout all of this, the chorus represented the supernatural (the Weird Sisters) and reality (many times portraying soldiers, mobs, etc): another interesting choice by Verdi. Although sometimes the attention distracted from the nuances in the music by the busy staging, overall the energy on the stage and the energy within the music were matched. The driving force was the orchestra, which was especially good, thanks to an elegant approach to the score by Music Director David Angus. When at their full sound, along with the full force of the chorus, the musicians created some magical and pivotal moments. The role of Macbeth was played by Daniel Sutin and Lady Macbeth by Carter Scott, both making their BLO debuts. Each had strong musical moments individually, but were most effective as a conspiring, enabling couple. Banquo (Darren Stokes) had a full voice and had an effective ghostly presence. The moment that seemed to be the favorite of the night was Macduff’s famous aria “Ah, la paterna mano,” sung effortlessly and with elegant line by tenor Richard Crawley. John Irvin (Malcolm), Michelle Trainor (Lady in Waiting) and David Cushing (Doctor), all BLO Emerging Artists, sang well and were memorable despite their smaller roles. Overall, Macbeth was solid across the board and served as an artistic pioneer for the BLO productions to come!

As a singer, attending opera is essential for my education as a musician. But, it is something I also truly enjoy, because the experience is very different and beautiful each time! It was so great to see all of the other eager Boston students come to Wednesday’s Macbeth Student Night. For many of the students that attended, it was their first or second time at the opera, but said it is a cool experience for any age, and that they will definitely return! (Hope to see familiar faces at The Lighthouse!)

--Melanie Burbules, Boston University '14

No comments:

Post a Comment