Opera Holland Park – Macbeth


Macbeth – Olafur Sigurdarson
Lady Macbeth – Miriam Murphy
Banquo – Mark Beesley
Macduff – Leonardo Capalbo
Malcolm – Lee David Bowen
Lady-in-waiting – Nicola Smedley
Medico – Samuel de Beck Spitzer
Assassin – Henry Grant Kerswell
Servant – Panos Tsikos
Fleance – Leo Faulks
Apparition 1 – Rachel Harland
Apparition 2 – Gillene Herbert
Apparition 3 – Susan Jiwey

Opera Holland Park Chorus

City of London Sinfonia
John Gibbons

Director – Olivia Fuchs
Designer – Bob Bailey
Lighting – Giuseppe di Iorio

Reviewed by: Paul Hutchinson

Reviewed: 7 June, 2005
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London

Yet another first for Holland Park Opera, Verdi’s “Macbeth”, all the more welcome for performances being relatively rare.

From the first notes, conductor John Gibbons proved, once again, to have total grasp, the City of London Sinfonia responding to his every command and playing excellently. The brass could have done with a bit more sonority, but that was compensated for by the fine woodwinds. With perfect ensemble playing in the opening Witch’s scene, the Chorus in top form, a standard was set that prevailed throughout the evening.

Olafur Sigurdarson squared up to the formidable challenge of the central role fearlessly; his firm baritone rolling out effortlessly all evening. An admirable foil for his Lady, Miriam Murphy equally seemed to find no difficulty with the fiendishly difficult part. She characterised well and moved with ease. Her drawback seemed to be the costumes; her lack of height doesn’t dominate the stage as it should and her designer had given her floor-length dresses which looked as though they intended hiding this; it merely emphasised it. She looked less like an ambitious predator and more like a rather frumpy housewife. She acquitted herself splendidly in her three set-pieces, especially the Sleepwalking scene; all the emotional changes fully registering.

From Mark Beesley’s well-sung Banquo, rich and sonorous, to Leonardo Capalbo’s anxious Macduff, all the roles were well taken. So, why did the production disappoint? Frankly, it was muddle-headed – ideas that just didn’t seem to make sense; and dramatic points seemed feeble: Macbeth dashing upstage to snatch what turned out to be a non-existent dagger! Why, in this of all moments? At the end of the first act, the chorus made wild gestures with their hands, which didn’t seem to point up anything that was happening on stage. It looked more like an aerobic class!

The only telling aspect of Olivia Fuchs’s conception was the back of the stage. Starting out as a blank, white-painted wall with a single door, after the Dagger Scene a single streak of blood started to permeate the entire edifice until it was covered in stripes of blood. After the interval the entire wall was drenched blood-red; very atmospheric and chilling. If only the thinking behind the rest of this production had been on this level: to the point.

Never mind, there is Verdi’s wonderful music, excellently performed, and the lovely atmosphere of Holland Park on a summer night with the cry of the peacock.

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