Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi - Macbeth / Welser-Most Hampson Marrocu Zurich Opera|
Actors: Thomas Hampson, Paoletta Marrocu, Liuba Chuchrova
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
This hard-edged postmodern production of Giuseppe Verdi's haunting masterpiece brings the story of Shakespeare's bloody tragedy to vivid life, characterized by spine-tingling atmospherics and a triumphant debut by American... more »
Hampson in a Brilliant Galvanizing Macbeth
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 08/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let the naysayers say what they want about Hampson being too lightweight for Verdi, I will go out on a limb and say there has probably never been a better Macbeth since Verdi let the ink dry on his opera.
This production from the Opernhaus Zurich is nothing short of amazing. Stefanos Lazaridis has provided a unit set which offers a terrific acting space for David Poutney's mostly telling direction and a cast that believed every gesture and convincingly wore every costume (including a few doozies) Poutney gave them.
Visually, this may be the most satisfying picture I've yet seen on DVD, almost "hyper real" which made the sound, while definitely clear and "real live" sounded a little boxy, like an old recording which has been cleaned up. It doesn't matter for as a whole this show works!
The chorus work was stunning, and although singing as a unified whole, each member seemed a distinct personality and "acted" as intense as the principals. Simply remarkable.
Roberto Scandiuzzi is a singer I've always liked but sounds a little fuzzy these days, but still is a compelling presence and though Banquo. His murder scene was a little odd, with his son Fleance, played by a little child. This was one of the scene's where Poutney went a little too heavy on the direction: Fleance pulls an old-fashioned typewriter out of a hole in the floor, Banquo putting up police posters of . . . I don't know what, war criminals? I didn't quite get some of the symbolism, e.g., Banquo killed by a couple of drag queens . . . etc.
What I did "get" for the first time, was a satisfactory performance from the witches. I'm embarassed to admit this but the witch music has never been spooky enough for this dark, dark opera and I wondered what Verdi had in mind. Well Poutney gives us an enormous chorus of witches of every stripe, elegant, trashy, poor, wealthy looking, cartoon characters all and it works with the music. The importance of the witches and their revelations to Macbeth and his reliance upon it all comes clear as if for the first time (to me, anyway). Lots can be read into it, but what I came away with was the "every woman" as witch, (sorry ladies!) . . . or with that type of power over man.
Heavy on the symbolism list also seemed to be time (and the passing of it) which made itself evident in unusual ways, a beautiful scrim with a clock face, the Macbeth's hairdos (or hair don'ts) as well as news (or its relevance) with corpses wrapped in news print, chorus members in costumes of news print, or graffiti, etc.
It's nice to see Luis Lima's name again, I thought he'd disappeared. He still looks good, and the voice is in good shape, though it's a little pressed and effortful, but his work in this relatively brief assignment is dignified and he brought much to it.
Paoletta Marrocu is a dazzingly, disturbed Lady. Her voice is exciting, distinctive without being what one would call "pretty" - which is certainly to advantage in this role. She has an arsenal of great effects, with spot-on trills which she uses excitingly in her best scene - the drinking song following Banquo's murder. She's first seen on top of the Macbeth Castle - a sort of plexiglass cube, rotated and moved on and off stage as needed, she doesn't "read" the letter, but rather recites it, and we see Macbeth writing it . . . little touches like this added much punch to the drama. Her costume - a send-up of a 70's Halston-style gown - with about 85% of her quite lovely cleavage on display, and, as previously mentioned, early 70's Callas-style hair do make her a striking physical presence. The audience adored her. So do I.
Marrocu's Sleepwalking scene was effectively sung, but a little over the top in direction, but she convinced nonetheless because she looked like she believed it. I did like Poutney's touch of having it played in brilliant, white - almost asylum like brightness and Marrocu was appropriately crazed.
Crazed is just the right word for Hampson's demented performance. Bold, youthful, arrogant at first, you see his Macbeth as one consumed with power and the getting of it. Then, you start watching his human side cracking through the facade and we're left with a multi-layered Macbeth the likes of which I've never seen. No, Hampson doesn't have the heft to match Warren in sound, but what he does bring to the picture is such perfect word-to-music relationship, a belief in every gesture, every word and he sings as much with his eyes as with his voice. His rage and mad fury comes across effectively and never does he sound taxed by the music.
Following the "Vendetta" duet the exhausted, nearly dead Macbeth has been rejuvenated, invigorated, and having had his nails painted, stripped of shoes and socks and put in drag by the witches for a little dance, astride a box, he grabs his lady for a giant kiss and instead gets bitten by her, sending him off again, mad, but in another direction.
Hampson's is almost a painfully beautiful performance, never studied or mannered, as is he is so often accused of. When this Macbeth starts his descent into madness, following Banquo's murder you believe he sees what he he sees. Hampson's work throughout is compelling, thrilling stuff and he left me drained.
Franz Welser Most conducts a musically tight performance with everybody jumping in to give what may be the best performances of their lives.
I can't recommend this high enough!
GEORGE RANNIE | DENVER, COLORADO United States | 12/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Verdi's Macbeth is a wonderful opera and it is a real pleasure to have another version available on DVD (Sinopoli's being the other); however, this production, to me, was not very satisfying or understandable. Believe me, I'm not one of those Opera Fans that can only appreciate so-called traditional productions of operas. I've enjoyed (and own) many so-called modern presentations of operas. Nevertheless, I really had difficulty understanding all of the symbolism and reasons "for the goings on" in this production--maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to understand. Hopefully, repeated viewings will help me to comprehend what is "going on" and to understand all of the hidden meanings presented. There will DEFINITELY be repeated viewings simply because Thomas Hampson is phenomenal as Macbeth--vocally and physically. The only way I can describe his performance is to use a phrase that has become rather trite--"Hampson IS Macbeth!"
Thomas is simply staggering in this role--vocally he is up to everything Verdi wrote and even though I had difficulty understanding the production, when Hampson was on stage, I really was completely overwhelmed! Now about the lady, as sung and portrayed by Paoletta Marrocu.
I had really looked forward to Marrocu's Lady Macbeth after reading a critic's review that stated she was the best since Callas "took-on" the role. I guess with that kind of build up, there was bound to be a let-down. Paoletta can certainly act the role; however, I was very disappointed with her singing. I know Verdi's Lady is supposed to be sung with an "ugly" sound. However, Callas was able to have you feel the Lady's evilness, but the sound she produced was not simply harsh and ugly as, I feel, Marrocu's singing sounds. I've heard other sopranos sing this role very effectively (Scotto, Sass, Bumbry and Voight, come to mind) and I have immensely enjoyed their singing of the Lady; however, I really could not "get into" Marrocu's rendition of this most vocally difficult of Verdi's heroines. Maybe, it was because, in this production, she has so much to do physically--she's crawling, lifting tables with candles on them and doing everything but standling still for even one moment. (Actually, what I truly feel, is that to me, Paoletta does not have enough voice to be singing the heavy Verdi operas--I know that has become a "broken record" for me. But again, I feel that there simply are not very many sopranos able to, these days, sing most of the Verdi heroines!) Oh well, maybe I'll grow to appreciate her on repeated viewings.
The rest of the cast is very good--Luis Lima (it was a pleasure to hear him again!) and Scanduzzi were outstanding.
The bottom-line of all of the above is don't hesitate to purchase this DVD. Purchase it, first of all, for Thomas' performance, but be prepared for a "little shock" at the production--perhaps all of you are far more sophisticated than I am and will "get itADDENDUM to the above review:
I was WRONG regarding Paoletta Marrocu's performance in this opera. After, again, listening/viewing this DVD, I was completely "blown-away" by the singing of Paoletta--she DOES possess the voice for the Lady; she is up to everything Verdi wrote and dramatically she is simply awesome. How, indeed, forunate it is that this perfomance is on DVD especially for someone like myself that can rush to quick judgement regarding a performer--my deepest apologies to Ms. Marrocu!
I was NOT wrong about Thomas' performance. After repeated exposures to his Macbeth, I'm even more overwhelmed--he is truly astounding giving one of the best operatic performances I have ever witnessed (I have seen many)
I still do not fully understand the production; however it is really riveting--it keeps your attention through out all of it.
In light of the above I'm changing my rating from 4 stars to 5 stars!"
K. Kehler | B.C., Canada | 12/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a fan of the play, but generally dissatisfied by operatic versions. This version, however, captures the sense of darkness, anxiety, and violence (and of course uncertainty and guilt) that lies at the heart of Shakespeare's play. It also captures the excitement, as the pace is great.
I am skeptical of concept productions, but the beauty of the set's colours (as well as dark and sexy Paoletta Marrocu, playing Lady Macbeth) won me over. (Unlike at least one of the other reviewers, I couldn't tell that she was -- allegedly -- out of tune.)
Hampson irritated me a little bit at first, because it initially seemed that his Macbeth would be too apprehensive to kill Duncan, but what won me over was they way he brought out Macbeth's limitations. And Macbeth IS limited. That's what causes him to fail, in terms of holding the throne and establishing a dynasty. Macbeth is a jock (er, no pun intended), a ferocious fighter, but his ambition puts him in a situation he's unprepared for (namely, being a regicide and usurper). Macbeth ends up out of his depth. Hampson's Macbeth captures Macbeth's flaws, especially his earnestness and that's important, because it highlights the fact that Macbeth is, at heart, too naive politically -- his response to political anxiety is to resort to killing anyone who threatens his rule -- to rule successfully or for very long.
The lamentation scene was fabulous, with Hampson's voice just about perfect, and his acting (and facial expressions) working with his singing to bring out the poignancy of Macbeth's fate. Scandiuzzi playing Banquo has a great voice. But he certainly looks more like a scholar than Macbeth the warrior's sidekick.
Downside? Macbeth appearing at the banquet in what looks like a lime green velour bathrobe that's three sizes too big. Oh and Lima's Macduff with blue hair under some kind of lacrosse helmet, while killing Macbeth through a wall, was odd, too. (Though see below.) So was Duncan's green blood, a visual pun on 'incarnadine' the green seas? So, it's five stars for the superlative music alone, four-to-five for the principals' work, and three for the visuals.
I'll conclude by urging you to give it a try. I was skeptical but the power of the performances, the perfect speed of the plot development, and the stunning sound, really do combine to overcome the weird sets/costumes. (Two examples: Macduff kills Macbeth by stabbing several swords through the wall of a cubed room, in which Macbeth is standing. This seems weird but it is understandable if it is seen as a visual metaphor for the edifice of Macbeth's rule being breached, and Macbeth and his rule simultaneously destroyed. Literally it is absurd, for people don't die that way. But tyrants do fall when walls are toppled. So it works. In her sleepwalking scene Lady Macbeth looks like a punk rocker chick in a sanitorium, sitting in gaudy lights, daubing the mirrored walls with her lipstick. But this is a nice touch, as it conveys the disintegration of her mind.)
Overall, while there are things I'd prefer to do without, unlike some Macbeths it is never boring."
Cerebral and Sexy
Carl Martin | Winston-Salem, North Carolina USA | 02/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the most convincing postmodern productions that I've seen. There's no doubt that staging a traditional opera in the manner of this one is controversial on the philosophical level. The visceral and cerebral images that have been added to the opera by this production provide multiple levels of meaning that were not even remotely contemplated by Verdi, and in this case that's done with an intense dedication. One can of course ask in these cases, who are these producers and designers to "add" to the genius of a Verdi or a Wagner? That's a legitimate complaint, which has caused me to defend the traditionalist approach of Otto Schenk (with Wagner)to one who felt it threatened the upsurge of avante garde freedom and creativity. We can be happy that we can see this version of Verdi's Macbeth and be sparked and challenged in one manner and yet watch a more traditional production when that's our feeling.
Dvd and video have especially granted us this freedom. PaolettaMaroccu is a powerful, sexy, and disturbing Lady Macbeth to match the deep and wretched, sod beating masculinity of Hampson in his approach to Macbeth. I almost wish that this "couple for the ages" weren't so often separated by stage devices. It might be argued that the cajoling and predictive company of witches in
their outcast state, as presented, have lost some of their virility. If there's anything truly troubling about this production it's that. Duncan as the golden, feminine, papier mache potentate, however, is a touch of brilliance."