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J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are DVDs or VHSs of three productions of Verdi's 'Macbeth' available and none of them is entirely recommendable. That goes for this production as well, but it does have a lot going for it. The sets, costumes and lighting are excellent, effectively pointing up the darkness of Shakespeare's tragedy. The scenes with the witches are pretty spooky, too. And there is no silly updating of the plot--it takes place in the eleventh century just as it's supposed to. (The version with Thomas Hampson from Zurich is in modern dress and that's pretty distracting.) Musically this production is quite good. John Pritchard leads the London Philharmonic who respond with alert and rich playing. It features some really quite remarkable singing from Kostas Paskalis as Macbeth and the 25-year-old James Morris as Banquo (what a shame he gets killed off in the second act, eh?). Paskalis is not the most skilled actor but he does manage to convey Macbeth's mental torment as the opera proceeds and his arias are not only beautifully sung but moving as well. The lyrical tenor of Keith Erwen as Macduff is put to good use in his wonderful Act IV aria. The young Josephine Barstow (about thirty in this production and possibly in her first big role) is variable. At times she is thrilling--as in the sleepwalking scene, 'Una macchia è qui tuttora'--but in the earlier scenes when she is pushing her husband over the brink, she is a rather too hammy actress (and her long-faced, lantern-jawed resemblance to the Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz' is hard to ignore). Still, she sings better than the squally Mara Zampieri in the Berlin/Sinopoli DVD. James Morris in his first appearance at Glyndebourne is sensational in his Act II aria.
'Macbeth' is sometimes referred to as Verdi's 'chorus opera' and indeed the Glyndebourne chorus is something special. One gets goosebumps when they sing 'Patria oppressa' (so very reminiscent of 'Va, pensiero' both musically and textually) that opens Act IV. And when they represent Birnam Wood marching on Macbeth after that they act well, too.
The bottom line: This is probably the best 'Macbeth' among the currently available contenders. It conveys the mounting tragedy convincingly, has more than passable singing, has excellent staging, and serves Verdi's intentions well. It would have been better if Paskalis and Barstow had been more effective actors, but one can't have everything. Still, it does make one wish Callas's portrayal of the role was available in modern sight and sound.
Sound - PCM stereo - is excellent; it does not sound dated at all. Occasionally the singers (especially Barstow) are covered by the orchestra. Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish. TT=126 mins.
Superb 'Macbeth' from Glyndebourne
Gerard Fagan | Dublin Ireland | 06/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1972 'Macbeth' from Glyndebourne is a strong contender among the DVD versions of Verdi's opera. The sets are effective in conveying the bleak desolation of Scotland as Verdi and Shakespeare saw it. Kostas Paskalis sings strongly as Macbeth even if his acting is not of the oscar-winning variety. Josephine Barstow is a ball-breaker of a Lady Macbeth,whom I for one would not fall foul of. Keith Erwen and james Morris fill their roles decently and the singing and orchestral playing cannot be faulted. The Berlin version with Bruson and Zampieri remains my number 1 choice but Glyndebourne is a worthy 2nd choice."
Sound and Fury
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 01/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an atmospheric, if drab, production, with two powerhouse performances to recommend it. Paskalis is a superb Macbeth, virile, meglomaniacal (when he's not being just plain maniacal), with a robust, rich voice. Barstow's performance is a little raw, a little forced, but her commitment to the role is nothing short of remarkable. There's fine support from a young(ish) James Morris and tenor Keith Erwin. Pritchard keeps things moving admirably, more so in the chorales that end Acts 1 & 2. All in all, this is as fine a "Macbeth" as you're likely to find on DVD at present."
R. Luce | Fresno, CA USA | 02/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is not only the best MacBeth available, it has excellent sound as well."
"A -must have- for Verdi's lovers. . ."
Miguel Galvez Fuentes | Monterrey, NL MEX | 07/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance was taped live in 1972 at Glydebourne, a mid size theatre. The set is quite intelligent incorporating creative customs for the XI century original history combined with a mysterious stage environment and obscurity atmosphere. In particular the witches scene which is creepy. The sound and picture quality are amazing keeping in mind that this was recorded more than 30 years ago.
John Pritchard conduction is impeccable, printing his signature style with electrifying power and stamina to the partitura and keeping the touch of softness when required taking this Verdi's master piece to an extraordinary level. The witches and chorus sounds well synchronized projecting the darkness and uncertainty involved in the script. Kostas Paskalis (R.I.P.) is tremendous as Macbeth, in great shape being in his early 40's, (actually he is 42 in this performance) he delivers passion and commitment in this memorable legacy of his art. His voice in a perfect match for the role, his tone and technique are exceptional, the way he integrate both singing and acting is astonishing. James Morris portrays a young Banquo solemn and memorable, managing an obscurity in his tone that covered effectively the role expectations. Josephine Barstow is a surprising Lady Macbeth starting with her beautiful figure and wicked gestures showing both greed and vengeance. She owns a powerful vocal instrument (She does use it!) and an amazing breath technique. Keith Erwen is a respectful Macduff warm voice and heroic scene presence.
The memorable accomplishments in my particular opinion are, Lady Macbeth first act aria, the wonderful duo between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth "Dove son io, svaniro. . ." at the end of the second and Macbeth's aria of the forth.
Needless to say, that this is a bargain not only for the price, but the production itself. There are not many video performances for this Verdi's title and I doubt there is even one nearly as good.