Verdi: Macbeth / Pappano, Keenlyside, Monastyrska, Royal Opera

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An excellent release, altogether, and something that any fan of the opera would enjoy. Theatrical events in the cinema have become one of the cultural...
An excellent release, altogether, and something that any fan of the opera would enjoy.

Theatrical events in the cinema have become one of the cultural phenomena of the last decade, and opera has led the way. The New York Met went first with their live HD relays, and others like Glyndebourne have followed. It’s exciting to see the Royal Opera House doing the same thing. This is a DVD release of their Macbeth that was relayed into cinemas in 2011. It’s very good all-round, well filmed and well captured in excellent sound but, as it should be, it’s the performances of the two leads that will capture the attention.
Simon Keenlyside and Liudmyla Monastyrska give one of the finest portrayals of the couple that I have come across. In both cases what lifts them into the category of the very special is the way they manage to chart the character’s development. Macbeth is a role that Keenlyside has grown into. He has the depth, the charisma and the energy that make the role complex and interesting; more than a great soldier laid low. His baritone is rounded and complex, just right to capture the many facets of the character’s journey. In the opening scene with the witches he comes across as vulnerable and impressionable into the bargain. However, he noticeably hardens in the second scene, and the dagger soliloquy finds him tougher and less humane. Even in the great duet after the murder his voice has more steel than remorse. This trajectory continues right to his final aria, Mal per me, which is extraordinary in its power and its sense of a life wasted. Perhaps he goes a little too far into snarling in the “sound and fury” sequence, but this remains an extraordinary interpretation of the character that I would love to have heard live. He is partnered by an equally exciting soprano in Liudmyla Monastyrska, a new name to me. She, too, charts the character’s development brilliantly, but she does so with quite extraordinary vocal tools. Her opening salvo, Ambizioso spirto, is exhilarating in its gleam, but cold with a palpable edge of steel which she maintains throughout the scene. Her vocal equipment is thrilling to listen to, however, not least in the coloratura of her cabaletta and the Brindisi of the second act. However, she undergoes the opposite journey to her husband so that, by the sleepwalking scene, she has shaded down her vocal colour to be a shadow of what it was. It’s a remarkable transition, and it makes the sleepwalking scene so much more effective, not least when she rises to a remarkable pianissimo in her final phrase. For these two alone this DVD would be required viewing. The others are fine, if not exceptional. Aceto sings Banquo’s aria very well but the character is rather uninvolving. The same is true of Macduff, though he isn’t quite as interesting to listen to. Malcolm’s few stage moments go off well, but there’s no doubt that it’s the Macbeths themselves who are the main draw here.
The production is fine too, stark in its contrasts of black, red and gold. Lloyd adopts a fairly minimalist approach, relying on lots of squares and cubes, most notably as an open cage where Duncan is murdered and the Macbeths plot the future. It’s her use of the witches that is most interesting. For her they are not restricted to the scenes on the heath; they invisibly orchestrate much of the action, most notably assisting the escape of Fleance after Banquo’s murder. The third act begins with a fantastic image of the great cube spinning around, controlled by the witches, with Macbeth and his wife inside. The direction of the two leads is very good and, while there isn’t much to say about the other characters, there is nothing in the production to insult or distract.
The chorus, so important in this opera, are very good indeed, whether playing witches, murderers, soldiers or refugees. The orchestra are fantastic too. Pappano’s direction is thrilling throughout. In one of the short extra films - all fine if unremarkable - he says that Macbeth is one of his favourite operas and you can tell in the way he screws up the tension to a thrilling climax in the chorus following Duncan’s murder. He shapes a compelling, dark vision of the score and has a whale of a time while doing so. The camera direction is always appropriate and the DTS sound comes through very well.
An excellent release, altogether, and something that any fan of the opera would enjoy.
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International

Macbeth – Simon Keenlyside
Banquo – Raymond Aceto
Lady Macbeth – Liudmyla Monastryrska
Servant – Nigel Cliffe
Malcolm – Steven Ebel
Lady – Elisabeth Meister
Macduff – Dmitri Pittas

Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra
Antonio Pappano, conductor

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, 13 June 2011

- Cast gallery
- Interviews with Simon Keenlyside, Raymond Aceto and Liudmyla Monastryrska
- Rehearsing Macbeth with Antonio Pappano

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Running time: 170 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 27, 2012

  • UPC: 809478010630

  • Catalog Number: OA 1063D

  • Label: Opus Arte

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: ""

  • Composer: Giuseppe Verdi

  • Conductor: Antonio Pappano

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus, Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra

  • Performer: Dmitri Pittas, Elisabeth Meister, Liudmyla Monastyrska, Nigel Cliffe, Raymond Aceto, Simon Keenlyside, Steven Ebel