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Friday, 10 June 2011

Macbeth at The Royal Opera House

Visits to the Royal Opera House and the ENO in one day is impressive, even for me! When I was offered a ticket to the final Macbeth rehearsal at ROH I had to accept. Going along to Covent Garden at 11am felt a little strange, especially seeing the audience turning up in casual weekend attire, a far cry from the usual ball gowns and pearls.

Once in the auditorium, the rehearsal announcement came loud and clear through the speakers: "this is a working rehearsal, there may be stops, and some singers may mark their part". Of course they have to say this but in fact the performance ran through, faultless and perfected, even the final bows were neat and tidy. To my knowledge the singers were singing full voice, they certainly didn't appear to be holding back. In fact quite the opposite, they were powerful and resonant, some of the best vocal bravado I've heard here for a while.

In my final year at university I was lucky enough to study 'Verdi and Shakespeare,' a course that focused on his three Shakespearean operas. Macbeth was the first, written in 1847 and revised in 1865. This was a period of great productivity in Verdi's life; even so the great composer recognised its worth, "Macbeth I prize above all my other operas".

The curtain lifts to reveal a swarm of menacing witches, they are dressed in striking red and black costumes that look very Japanese inspired. The chorus is gigantic, they spit out the first number, a sinister mass. I immediately noticed Anthony Ward’s bold set, a strong structure that traps the singers very effectively on stage. The soloists in this cast are exceptional, Simon Keenlyside’s clear baritone voice brings warmth to the role of Macbeth, and Liudmyla Monastyrska sings the highly virtuosic part of Lady Macbeth with confidence and true musicianship. Brilliant alone on stage, she fills the theatre with her big voice, but also works extremely well with Keenlyside, a perfectly possessed duo.

The orchestra of the Royal Opera House are masterful as ever, conducted by the strong handed Antonio Pappano, who I think brings a unique flair to this extraordinary score. Pappano is particularly sensitive to the more intense moments of the opera, for instance Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene that is very intimate and moving.

I was fully engaged throughout despite the long running time of three hours. Every aspect of Phyllida Lloyd’s production is brilliantly realised to produce a stunning five star rendition of this wonderfully dark masterpiece.

Macbeth continues until Saturday 18th June, book here.

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