Royal Opera Macbeth

Music: Giuseppe Verdi

Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave, after the play by William Shakespeare

In a live recording at the Royal Opera House made on June 13, 2011

A Royal Opera Collection recording

Conductor: Antonio Pappano

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Designer: Anthony Ward

Macbeth – Simon Keenlyside

Lady Macbeth – Liudmyla Monastyrska

Banquo – Raymond Aceto

Macduff – Dimitri Pittas

From the instrumental introduction that precedes the first chorus of witches to the finale of the opera, Pappano’s is a fully informed realization, attentive to details of dynamics and orchestration, ever attuned to the needs of singers, both energetic and sensitive. The London cast is all-business, committed to the work at hand, musically accurate…If only the vocal accomplishments of the key principals measured up to Verdi’s expectations!

Of course nobody knows exactly what the composer of this masterful work had in mind, but one can surmise, based on the vocal writing for the two principal leads what should be expected. From the baritone who is to sing the title role it is fair to expect a dark Italianate sound, plenty of heft, a strong top voice, and, of course a gift for making the Piave text come to life. Think of Milnes, Warren, Željko Lučić…

Simon Keenlyside is a wonderful singer, a superb lyric baritone unexcelled in roles like Hamlet, Rossini’s Figaro, Mozart’s Count Almaviva, Wozzeck, Billy Budd… At age 61 it is fair to expect Keenlyside to graduate to more mature roles: Germont should be a natural fit for him, Verdi’s Ford, even Don Giovanni should provide a good vehicle for his lean and bright voice. But Macbeth, long the property of Verdi specialists simply lies beyond the reach of this fine English baritone.

Then there is the Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, a fine singer who can sing all the notes in the demanding role of Lady Macbeth. But merely being able to sing all the notes in this killer role will not do. Beyond that lies bringing to the part the sort of dramatic commitment that great interpreters of the role have brought to it. A long line of Lady Macbeth’s precede Monastyrska: Grace Bumbry,  Maria Guleghina, Shirley Verrett, Sondra Radvanovsky… all terrific singing actress none of whom would have been caught dead doing the sort of eye rolling, silent movie posturing to which Monastyrska resorts again and again. Pitty, for in the sleepwalking scene Monastyrska sings and acts up a storm!

In the supporting roles of Banquo and Macduff, bass Raymond Aceto and tenor Dimitri Pittas impress: Aceto delivering a sonorous Come dal ciel precipita and Pittas wonderful in his address to the Scottish people Dalla paterna mano.

Director: Phyllida Lloyd handles the crowd scenes well, less so in the work with the individual singers, who are all too often left to their devices. The production design is fair, heavy on the metallic, vague in defining locale.The video and sound engineering are faultless and, it goes without saying, the contribution of a collection of sixteen operatic productions on video is a magnificent addition to the archives of 20th and 21st operatic productions.

This DVD is part of the Royal Opera Collection (  OA1337BD / OABD7291BD).  

Rafael de Acha    ALL ABOUT THE ARTS