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Macbeth Goes to the Movie Theatre

New York
Metropolitan Opera
01/12/2008 -  
Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Zeljko Lucic (Macbeth), Maria Guleghina (Lady Macbeth), John Relyea (Banquo), Dimitri Pittas (Macduff), Russell Thomas (Malcolm), Raymond Renault (Duncan, King of Scotland), Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs (Lady-in-Waiting), Richard Hobson (Servant), James Courtney (Doctor), Joseph Turi (Herald), Adam Hauser Pinero (Fleance), Keith Miller (Murderer), David Crawford (Warrior), Ashley Emerson (Bloody Child), Anne-Carolyn Bird (Crowned Child)
James Levine (Conductor)
Adrian Noble (Director), Mark Thompson (Set and Costume Designer), Jean Kalman (Lighting Designer), Sue Lefton (Choreographer)

Gary Halvorson (Live Telecast Director), Jay Saks (Audio Producer)

Those living in close proximity to The Metropolitan Opera can be a regular affair. For others, however, visiting Lincoln Center’s venerable institution is an experience of a lifetime. Regardless of frequency, The Metropolitan Opera now provides all opera enthusiasts the opportunity to partake in live telecasts, thanks to the dedicated and innovative work of General Manager, Peter Gelb.

Since its inception in December 2006, the number of theatres airing live productions has almost tripled, evidenced by a growing universal appeal. From my own personal perspective, my attendance of a “live” Verdi Macbeth in Orange County, California was a most satisfying experience amidst a near sold out crowd. Surely, this is representative testimony to the successful endeavors of Mr. Gelb.

Witnessing on stage one of Verdi’s most dramatic operas, this Macbeth brings an infusion of new energy and perspective spearheaded by British director Adrian Noble. From the opening curtain we find Mark Thompson’s gloomy silhouetted trees ferreting out grayish hued witches bedecked in 1950’s winter coats, disheveled hair, and lipstick gone wrong, done in a somewhat comical fashion.

One of Gary Halvorson’s achievements is the manner in which he electrifies his audience by panning the women of varying expression on front stage while anchored by James Levine’s well-grounded musical interpretation. Indeed, the macabre warren of women works well while giving prophecy to Macbeth sung by the bold baritone Zeljko Lucic, a last minute cast change due to indisposed Lado Anateli.

The prerequisites for singing the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are great stamina, both vocally and dramatically. Without doubt, this is attained on both levels through the talents of Mr. Lucic and Met favorite, Maria Guleghina. The live telecast has cameras moving at a plausible cadence to show pivotal expressions of character close-ups as well as broad shots. Equally noteworthy is the touching scene featuring Dimitri Pittas’ Macduff as he sheds real tears during the aria, “Ah, la paterna mano” while surrounded by a compelling tribe of refugees that hit our subconscious to transplant us to universal relevance, a key to Noble’s overall objective. These magnified moments offer a splendid way to dissect characters’ feelings, although it tends to become an overworked technique.

John Relyea’s broad and rich bass sonority is imposing in his rendition of the suspecting Banquo while the voice of Malcolm, sung by Russell Thomas, is pristine and shiny, the perfect antidote to hope and a happy ending for Scotland.

We also have a great opportunity to follow the cameras behind the scenes to see all the essentials that are needed to sustain the performance. At the onset we see Peter Gelb introducing Macbeth from the basement behind the orchestra pit followed by an impromptu interview with Maestro Levine who provides fascinating insights into the opera just minutes and seconds away from taking to the podium. In short, this allows us to become a part of the production itself.

Mary Jo Heath interviews both leading protagonists during intermission, but seems rather disconcerting to us, the viewers, since pulling the performers immediately into a camera after an exhausting and draining first half, appears to ill-suit both Lucic and Guleghina.

During the Macbeth prelude Gary Halvorson economically introduces all principal characters. Furthermore, it would be advantageous to title each of the scenes in Macbeth to help orient the audience. Jay Saks deserves great credit as he provides acute sounds during pianissimi movements, but at times the volumetric level becomes excruciating painful during the fortissimi lines.

Mr. Gelb is on track with forward thinking and resourcefulness. Being the prestigious organization it is, The Metropolitan Opera extends its open arms in reaching a broader audience throughout the world.

Christie Grimstad



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