Sunday, January 13, 2008


This Met at the Movies matinee was a totally new experience for me. I had never watched or I think listened to Verdi's Macbeth all the way through, though I was very familiar with MacDuff's aria. The production was of course brand new for this season, directed by famed Shakespearean director Adrian Noble, and it starred a number of singers I knew nothing of, like baritone Zeljko Lucic, who sang Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas (MacDuff). Even the singers I knew of, I knew more by reputation than by actual listening, like soprano Maria Guleghina and barihunk John Relyea.

It was a wonderful production and a great performance, thoroughly rewarding. Guleghina started off wildly out of control and I feared for my ears if she lasted like that, but by the mad scene, the conviction and passion of her singing and acting had completely won me over. She'll never be known for her subtlety or her phrasing, but for a big dramatic performance I don't think she can be bettered today. Lucic was very pleasant, with a nice strong sound, though I was somehow not blown away. Relyea, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. Such an odd sound, with a wide vibrato, but it catches your attention. Banquo is not much of a role, but he acted it well.

And finally, Noble. I have always thought of Noble as a very classicist director, beautiful but boring. His blocking is just unbelievable, and the costumes, lighting and so forth are always both pretty and consistent with the vision of the overall production. Yet with Macbeth, though there were no avant-garde surprises, I thought he put in some flashes of eerieness and creativity that really kept it interesting. Guleghina's mad scene, for example, featured her stepping blindly and cautiously onto chairs that were being moved by extras to create a path for her towards the front of the stage. It was set in the twentieth century, but decidedly in the past, say around WWII with a few bandannas and earrings thrown in -- no Blackberrys or anything.

I hope the Met will rotate this one more frequently now, even if it doesn't make it into repertory. Really great stuff -- I have to add a final compliment to James Levine and the orchestra, who were even better than usual.

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