Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera

Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
Lady Macbeth: Nadja Michael
Macduff: Dimitri Pittas
Macbeth: Thomas Hampson
Banquo: Gunther Groissböck

Last Monday I attended Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera.

This was an early work influenced by bel canto and the score actually sounded more like Donizetti rather than Verdi's later operas. In certain scenes it seemed as if I was listening to Lucia de Lammermoor with occasional blasts of verismo.

Much has been written about Michael's pitch problems and they were indeed evident on Monday. She has an arresting stage presence but Lady Macbeth seemed beyond her current vocal capabilities. Her wobbly tone did contribute to the sense of her character's mental disintegration and her sleepwalking scene was chilling in spite of the imprecise intonation.

Hampson, who has made a specialty of the title role, was oddly inert. His elegant, patrician baritone is well suited for Mozart but not for Verdi, which requires some heft and gravitas. His didn't quite convey Macbeth's ambition and paranoia.

The chorus, however, was fabulous, especially in the witches' scenes and in Patria oppressa. Noseda led the orchestra with chamber-like nuance. I did love the modern dress production which was updated to post World War II Scotland. The use of large swinging lamps was particularly ingenious, and the staging of Banquo's ghost in the banquet scene was delightfully spooky.

It's a testament to Shakespeare that in spite of the inconsistent singing I left the opera eerily disturbed by what I had just seen. Una macchia è qui tuttora (Yet here's a spot) really creeped me out. It's the eternal metaphor for the buried terrors in each and every one of us.

Here are two incredible, and completely different, interpretations by Montserrat Caballe and Maria Callas.

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