The Royal Opera – Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth – Željko Lučiċ & Anna Netrebko; conducted by Antonio Pappano

Macbeth – Opera in four Acts to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after William Shakespeare [sung in Italian, with English surtitles]

Macbeth – Željko Lučiċ
Banquo – Ildebrando d’Archangelo
Lady Macbeth – Anna Netrebko
Lady-in-waiting – Francesca Chiejina
Servant to Macbeth – Jonathan Fisher
Duncan – John O’Toole
Malcolm – Konu Kim
Macduff – Yusif Eyvazov
Fleance – Matteo di Lorenzo
Assassin – Olle Zetterström
First apparition – John Morrissey
Second apparition – Gaius Davey Bartlett
Third apparition – Edward Hyde
Herald – Jonathan Coad
Doctor – Simon Shibambu

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano

Phyllida Lloyd – Director
Daniel Dooner – Revival Director
Anthony Ward – Designer
Paule Constable – Lighting
Michael Keegan-Dolan – Choreographer
Kirsty Tapp – Revival Choreographer
Terry King – Fight Director

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 25 March, 2018
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Royal Opera's production of Verdi's MacbethPhotograph: Bill CooperThis revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 production of Macbeth includes Željko Lučiċ as the Scottish thane and Anna Netrebko as his consort with Antonio Pappano conducting. Lučiċ has been heard in the Royal Opera House in several Verdi roles and his singing has always been treasurable. This performance shows him to be one of the foremost interpreters of this tricky role. He’s a man of imposing stature, credible as a charismatic leader, but he also knows how to channel stillness, to particularly telling effect in Macbeth’s soliloquies. Allied to this is his daring to sing extremely quietly at these moments, as Verdi wished, and where Pappano’s emphasis of the sombre colouring of the orchestration also helped enormously. There is also great power, with steel when necessary, to Lučiċ’s voice, as displayed in the banquet scene, and also a superb sense of line. Dramatically he catches all the complexity of the character, managing to make the interpolation of Macbeth’s death scene from the earlier 1847 version theatrically credible.

Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth is on this level too. The voice has acquired more amplitude without loss of agility and its palette of colour similarly undiminished. As a soprano Lady Macbeth she has all the necessary power expected at the top of the range and yet the lower reaches of the role do not find her lacking either. Her inflection of the text is also impressive, notably so when in duet with Lučiċ – she too scaling down the volume to match his quiet intensity. They play extraordinarily well off each other – her character strong when his is vacillating, and yet the emotional cost shows through the tough exterior. At times she is truly terrifying; the imperious, barely disguised, force of her repeat of the drinking song after Macbeth’s first outburst on seeing Banquo’s ghost reveals her to be the really threatening power behind the throne and her sleepwalking scene is rather more nightmarish and forceful than most singers dare make it, although perhaps lacking is that element of unpredictability and abandon that the role also demands.

The Royal Opera's production of Verdi's MacbethAnna Netrebko as Lady MacbethPhotograph: Bill CooperIn the other roles there are felicities. Yusif Eyvazov displays a lovely mezza-voce in Macduff’s final Act aria and Konu Kim is a more macho Malcolm than most. Ildebrando d’Archangelo is a credible Banquo but did not sound in happiest voice at this performance, an almost pushed quality to the sound suggesting that this role perhaps lies a little too low for him.

The Chorus is on heart-stopping form as the refugees at the start of the final Act, and in the pit Pappano and his excellent Orchestra catch the distinct soundworld of this opera – the plangent lower woodwinds painting the gloomy and nocturnal qualities of Verdi’s scoring and with the brass catching the martial glitter of the world of the court and armies on the move.

Daniel Dooner takes assured charge of Lloyd’s overtly melodramatic production. The witches are a potent manipulative force in the drama, and some of the visual images are effective – notably the confining gilded cage of monarchy spinning out of control. This is a fine revival encompassing some world-class performances.

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