Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi - Macbeth / Alvarez Guleghina Scandiuzzi Berti Alberdi Campanella Barcelona Opera|
Actors: Carlos Alvarez, Maria Guleghina
Director: Bruno Campanella
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Kultur Release Date: 11/18/2008 Run time: 170 minutes
TODD KAY | 05/18/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Phyllida Lloyd's production, which originated in London but here is seen in a 2004 loaner to the Gran Teatre del Liceu, is a study in blackness with very sparing contrasts. Against static ebony backdrops, there are frequent splashes of red -- blood, in this very bloody opera, or its figurative equivalents (the witches sport red turbans; a red-garbed Macduff vanquishes Macbeth at the close) -- and gold (the royal trappings have a cheap, unconvincing look that I suspect was intentional, suggesting the emptiness of ignoble achievement). Lady Macbeth is first seen stalking about her bedroom, alternately pacing in agitation and throwing herself onto a black bed. Maria Guleghina's honey-highlighted tresses have been teased and tossed into a mane-like coif, and this combines with the character's air of barely contained savagery and the squared pattern on the large black screen behind her to suggest a caged lioness. Lady Macbeth's cage, of course, is her deprivation of the power to which she believes she and her husband are entitled. Fate soon leaves that door ajar for her, but the royal thrones are surrounded with a much smaller cage (albeit one lacquered in the above-mentioned gilt), from which Banquo's ghost hangs and leers in Macbeth's hallucinations. In Lady Macbeth's last scene, in which she wilts under the weight of her guilt and malfeasance, the proud mane of her first scene has gone limp and tangled, in a kind of follicular bookend effect.
At points when there are few good options outside of the realm of hackneyed operatic blocking (e.g., stentorian baritone/soprano passages that require both singers to face the audience), the director seems to have looked for ways to choreographically enliven the proceedings so as not to succumb entirely. The minimalist sets allow for great ease of transitions. Objects glide on and off the stage, people emerge from or disappear into shadows, scenes bleed and blur into one another; it has something of the fluidity of a coma dream. Only in the later going does Lloyd's severe treatment begin to seem monotonous and dramatically jumbled (to no good effect, the Macbeths remain on stage, in their twin beds, to observe the scene with Macduff and the oppressed people), and the quality of her bold emendations falls off in the second half. Having the witches interfere at key points -- one presenting the crown to Macbeth, two others helping to effect Fleance's escape -- is intriguing. More banal is a sequence in which the witches rouse Macbeth from a faint by presenting a vision of the Macbeths sharing a double bed, doting on a number of small children. When the vision passes, the bed separates into the distantly spaced twin beds the barren couple actually occupies. In this literally dark staging, spotlighting is used in ways that are both helpful and imaginative, and the video direction and transfer are superb.
Between them, the two leads provide the makings of one great performance. Maria Guleghina is a stage presence of fierce authority and self-confidence, with an expressive face that is ideal for this medium (the play of emotions on her face in "La luce langue" is riveting). There are moments of musical eloquence to match. Her handling of Lady Macbeth's interview of her husband following the murder of Duncan is a good example, particularly the lines in which she asks him if he heard other voices. A true singing actress, Guleghina realizes and exploits the possibilities of this musically quite commonplace passage, and the effect is chilling. The extent to which one can appreciate the things she does well dramatically -- and there are many -- will depend on one's tolerance for her vocal shortcomings. When a phrase requires a sudden leap from one register to another, she consistently is in poor balance (often, the latter note will barely be audible); the highest notes, though ample and piercing enough, frequently fall short of the correct pitch (a problem in both the concluding Act I concertato and the duet that follows Macbeth's second encounter with the witches); and she is not the most facile recorded exponent of this role, often sounding hard-pressed and near the end of her tether. Too, listeners who have heard Lady Macbeths with solid bel canto grounding will know what they are missing in the brindisi. This is a piece in which clusters of notes of short value add up to larger gestures; a Callas or a Cossotto could give both the individual notes and the cumulative gesture their proper due. Guleghina's intentions are there, but her technique only allows her to approximate this kind of writing with smears. Her most polished singing is saved for the sleepwalking scene. Carlos Alvarez's strengths and weaknesses are in direct opposition to Guleghina's. The music holds no terrors for him, and his singing is smooth and attractive, but as ever, he is a rather stolid, blunt presence. In fairness to him, more expressive singing actors have only been able to get so much from this role; Verdi and Piave simply gave the Lord less clay for molding than they gave the Lady.
Bass Roberto Scandiuzzi is more together here than I have heard him in recent years -- less recent performances than this one have documented a widening wobble, and the most pleasant musical surprise on the DVD is his relatively secure and steady Banquo. That the tenor role of Macduff is listed as a comprimario part does not get the singing of Bergonzi, Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras, and Shicoff (all of whom have sung it on recordings) out of one's ears, to say nothing of illustrious tenors who have recorded the aria alone. This puts Marco Berti, rather colorless and strident in tone, and finishing the last note of the aria with a sort of heroic gulp, in a tough position. But his vocal equipment, more than that of the aforementioned superstars, is consistent with what one should reasonably expect to hear in a role of this size and importance; as such, he is adequate. (I do not have at present to review him in a role such as Radames, which he also has sung in major theaters. Times are tough.)
Recorded sound is more flattering to the voices than to the orchestra, which lacks resonance; however, the miking in the pit may be *too* good in one respect. Some secondary orchestral parts that conductors tend to downplay in balances are heard quite clearly here, to the point of competition with what usually covers them, and their banality does not benefit from such sharp relief. (Vivid though much of the opera is, at this "early middle" point in his composing career, Verdi was still pulling at the chains of convention; he had not broken them.) This production omits the Act III ballet sequence. Bruno Campanella's reading is in the middle of the road in terms of tempo, but its character is lively and mercurial on the whole -- an asset. The orchestra impresses as upper second tier."
Burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell?
Bonsai Hero | SoCal, USA | 02/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll take my Macbeth bloody as hell, thanks. Dark, bloody and downright disturbing, this is the 3rd version of Verdi's "Macbeth" that I've seen on DVD, and the best so far. It occupies the happy middle ground between the respectable, if stodgy, 1978 Glyndebourne production, and the visually stunning, yet fairly bizarre and occasionally silly 2001 Zurich production. The sets here tend toward the minimalistic, yet there are some impressive dramatic flourishes, like the gilded cage into which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth ascend to power, and the snow which begins to fall ominously at the end of the 1st act. Phyllida Lloyd's stage action, on the other hand, is anything but minamalistic; this is true verismo staging, and the principals really work for their money (witness the riveting Álvarez sweating buckets through much of the opera!). Lloyd also succeeds where many of her peers have not in carrying off key dramatic scenes, such as Banquo's murder (which is genuinely suspenseful, almost scary, in this production). She's not afraid to use buckets of blood in this bloodiest of operas, and it works; the imagery actually gave me bad dreams. Álvarez is as convincing as any Macbeth I've seen, though I found Maria Guleghina a flawed Lady Macbeth; she has problems at the top of her register, and she plays the character as more of a shrew than a seductress. Marco Berti makes a heftily heroic Banquo, and his 3rd act aria is a literal show-stopper. The Liceu Orchestra is somewhat disadvantaged by a dry acoustic which exposes every little rhythmic flaw (there's no serious problems in the orchestra, but some minor issues of ensemble playing that wouldn't be noticeable in a more reverberant hall); otherwise, their playing, under the baton of Bruno Campanella, is as refined as one would expect from a top-tier opera orchestra. In general, I've found the operas released on the Opus Arte DVD label to be consistently interesting and of a high musical standard. This "Macbeth" certainly ranks among their most successful releases to date."
Great staging/costuming concepts
Sophia N. Tegart | Eugene, OR | 04/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production has many great things going for it. The singing is really wonderful, Carlos Alvarez and Maria Guleghina are a great match to play the overly ambitious Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is obvious to see why the role of Lady Macbeth has become a specialty for Maria Guleghina. The staging (by Phyllida Lloyd) and sets/ costumes (Anthony Ward) were probably my favorite part of the entire production. The sets really symbolized Verdi's dark tinta in the music. To emphasize the greedy nature of Macbeth and his wife the only color other than black (and some white for contrast) that was used on stage was gold. In this opera the sets and costuming really did the underlying themes of good v evil, darkness v light, and greed justice. My only complaint is with the orchestra; they were definitely not on the same level as the singers. I would say that the strings in the orchestra were the weakest link in the entire production. Fortunately with the great singing, costumes, sets, and staging it is easy to ignore and forget about the string section, thus making this production very enjoyable."
An energetic and moving production of "Macbeth"
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 12/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Macbeth" is one of Verdi's underappreciated operas, perhaps because it was written early in his long career. Verdi took great source material and used it to compose an opera with choruses that range from spooky (the witches) to weary and heartbreaking (the people of Scotland); arias for Lady Macbeth with vocal leaps and pyrotechnics that are Mozartian in difficulty; a great marital spat duet in which Lady M's diabolical hold over her husband is revealed; a final aria for the title character that garners sympathy for him, cold-blooded murderer though he is. The score is taut; not a wasted note.
I love Carlos Alvarez's full-bodied, burnished baritone voice which he uses to produce not only a beautiful sound but great acting. He performed this Macbeth the same year as his superb Rigoletto, also available on DVD. (Some say that Macbeth is second only to Rigoletto in its difficulty for a Verdi baritone.) In my opinion, Alvarez is turning into a magnificent dramatic baritone, comparing favorably with the greats of the past. I don't understand why he hasn't garnered more attention in the opera world.
Russian soprano Maria Guleghina has the dubious distinction of having fallen into the "love her or hate her" category at the moment. My view of her as a performer is between these extremes. She's a dramatic powerhouse onstage and that charismatic presence is perfectly suited for Lady Macbeth. On the other hand, her singing can be sloppy (I'm not sure how to better express it) and she is flat in several places when reaching for the high notes: "La luce langue," the Brindisi, her Act III duet with Macbeth. (Flat is so much harder on the ear than sharp.) She also doesn't have the true coloratura skills required for the role, but her dramatic intensity goes a long way to make up for it. Her sleepwalking scene is spellbinding (and she's not even flat at the end). I just wish she were a more disciplined performer. Verdi said he did not want a Lady Macbeth with a beautiful voice - that she should have a harsh, hollow, even suffocated voice. But of course he would never have approved of sloppiness. (For a performer who produces the sound Verdi described, find a CD with Maria Callas performing Lady Macbeth's arias.)
The bass-baritone Roberto Scandiuzzi is Banquo, as he is in the Zurich production of 2001 (also available on DVD). But Scandiuzzi is in better voice here and much stronger dramatically. As Macduff, tenor Marco Berti is excellent. "Ah la paterna mano," despite its tragic sentiment, is a beautiful romanza and provides much musical relief after the funereal chorus. The beauty of Berti's voice, which just rings out, makes the tragic nature of this bel canto piece all the more moving. The chorus sings with power and emotion; its dark and sad rendition of "Patria oppressa" is a highlight of the opera, performed, as it is, with the Macbeths onstage.
The sets and costumes successfully convey that this play-turned-opera stands up as a political thriller in any time period.
My heart wants to give this production five stars, but my critical mind must subtract a star because of Guleghina's shortcomings even though I truly enjoyed her performance."