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Macbeth

By Giuseppe Verdi

13, 14, 16, 17 October 2009
York Theatre Royal

Based very closely on Shakespeare's tragedy, even to textual similarities, Verdi's 'Macbeth' enhances the story of over-vaulting ambition by means of powerful, emotive choral items, sweeping orchestral passages and dramatic arias. The workings of evil, as they bring about the downfall of the once-heroic Macbeth in a wave of violence and blood-lust, come to life in York Opera's powerful production.

 

Review: York Opera in Macbeth; Theatre Royal, York
By Martin Dreyer

You really have to admire a company that pushes the boat out in these straitened times.

York Opera has dared to bring us Verdi’s first Shakespeare opera. So? All you need is a soprano with enough nerve and steel to play Lady Macbeth and an orchestra sophisticated enough to supply the score’s many colours… oh, and a budget to match.

This Clive Marshall production is so exhilarating, it is hard to know where to cast the first laurels.

The company has assembled possibly the finest orchestra in its history. Even with Eva Fox-Gál as its leader, most of the principals from York Guildhall Orchestra, an excellent quartet of horns and a truly stalwart body of strings, no conductor is guaranteed a grand slam.

But Alasdair Jamieson fashions one with a brilliant, meticulous display that barely misses a trick, for example in the banquet scene in Act 2, where his woodwinds are impeccably disciplined.

The return of Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs to the company will excite the attention of any admirer of Verdian coloratura. Her Lady Macbeth does not disappoint. On the contrary, she inhabits the role to her fingertips.

Both in her Act 2 aria and in the sleepwalking scene, her theatrical finesse grabs the audience and refuses to let go. Her high notes are thrillingly in place, but the chest tone is also there to answer Verdi's huge demands on her range. She alone is worth the price of admission.

Ian Thomson-Smith’s Macbeth is no pushover. He rises admirably to the challenge of their great duet and sustains a powerful focus to his baritone that would be even more impressive if he kept his neck and torso still.

Steve Griffiths’ gruff Banquo is at his best in Act 2 (though as a ghost he should be spirited away more surreptitiously). Martin Neil Dunn’s pleasing tenor makes the most of his limited opportunities as Macduff, but he must eyeball his audience more. Ben Pieper looks the part as Malcolm.

A chorus of 40 gets stronger as the evening progresses, until as refugees and in the finale it really comes into its own.

The witches’ choreography does not always convince, but they certainly do the business vocally. Cleverly suggestive décor (John Soper) is either palatial or outdoor – rounded arches or red branches. Any self-respecting opera-goer will cancel other engagements to attend this stunning evening.

 

Reproduced from the York Press website, by kind permission of the editor.