Thursday, 29 December 2016

Giuseppe Verdi, Macbeth - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 27th December

After long absence I came back to Munich for a performance as part three of this year's christmas opera marathon. Dark times call for dark music and so Macbeth seems to be more than appropriate. The bloody story of the murderous couple in Scotland is one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and worth reading in the English original version. The production by Martin Kušej captures the spirit of Shakespeare with his dark and disturbing direction. I especially liked that he actually showed an intensive development of the two main characters. He did not show them as crazy killers, but simply as two persons disappointed by life who turn against it afterwards. Especially the evolution of Lady Macbeth was shown very well. Already during the Ouverture it was shown that she obviously lost a child (the first bloody shocker) which might have triggered her evolution. Dashed by life and full of frustration she turns against everything, even her own sex. With every of her appearances she becomes more and more vicious and ill-minded until she finally appears as a consumed broken existence during her final scene (the sleepwalking scene). Also the idea of showing the witches as little creepy children (I guess inspired by the movie "Village of the Damned") was quite exciting and gave these scenes some intesnse horror.
The stage by Martin Zehetgruber was really captivating with a field of skulls and a grey tent on the frontstage. With walls of plastic foils he was able to make the stage smaller or bigger by putting them up. Even though the stage stayed exactly the same throughout the evening it never became boring at all. The costumes by Werner Fritz jumped between period costumes (at the totally posed Brindisi for example) and costumes from the present (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth most of the time). Not matter which time they were in, they supported the plot very well.
Conductor Paolo Carignani led the musical part of the evening with passionate intensity and a distinct sense for musical-dramatic processes. He was able to captivate the audiece with the many catchy tunes and a refined balance between the dramatic and grotesque parts of the score. The Bayerisches Staatsorchester played vividly with ravishing drive. They gave a more or less flawless performance as well as the Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper which sounded balanced and strong.
Apart of the many small roles there are basically 5 bigger roles of which two are definitely the center of attention. I will focus on these five bigger roles, but I have to mention that even the smallest role was sung very well by everyone.
Dean Power sang the role of Malcolm with his youthful bright tenor. It is a pity that this role does not have more music because Power did a wonderful job and is definitely worth bigger roles.
As Banco Italian singer Ildebrando D'Arcangelo gave a solid performance with his dark and intimidating voice. He filled the role with life easily and managed his part without any issues. Personally I would like Banco to have a more dignified and reverent timbre, but D'Arcangelo did a good job anyway.
Yusif Eyvazov was singing Macduff with his bright and focused tenor. While having a very clear and powerful voice his performance did not really convince me. He sings everything with the same tone colour and the same volume (loud) which might be impressing, but not artistically convincing. It is really a pity because he seems to sing everything with ease, but unfortunately he ends up a bit one-dimensional.
The clear highlight of the evening was the singer of the female leading role, Lady Macbeth, which was sung by celebrated Russian soprano Anna Netrebko. Her voice grew much bigger in the last few years, but did not lose its incredibly warm and soft timbre. Her lower register is magnificent and really impressively strong and solid, while her top notes still have that shiny quality. But not just vocally, also acting-wise she knew how to convince the audience. The famous sleepwalking scene (including a crystal clear high d flat) showed her strong acting skills and literally gave me goosebumps. I have to say though that it is a pity that she did choose not to sing the optional high high d flat in the finale of the first act. However, her performance was simply flawless.
You definitely need a singer who is able to sing at the same niveau as Ms. Netrebko for the title role and with Franco Vassallo they definitely had someone like that. Vassallo's dark and flexible baritone seems to be perfect for the dramatic Verdi repertoire. He showed many facettes of the character with his elegant, but also intimidating voice. His performance included harsh brutality as well as hopeless despair which he was able to convey through his singing as well as through his acting. Especially his final aria in act 4 was really wonderful and showed his refined musicality.
Alltogether it was a magical evening that had almost everything one could call for. Time simply flew by and I could have watched it all over again right after the last note. Therefor I can give 9 stars to the magic Macbeth performance in Munich.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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