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Gripping Intensity

Verdi's 'Macbeth' at New Zealand Opera
impresses HOWARD SMITH


NBR New Zealand Opera's production of Macbeth (with score by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Francesco Piave) transplanted from Opera North (Leeds 2008) proved a resolutely grim affair.

Nonetheless a capacity audience at the concluding Wellington performance responded to the unrelieved catalogue of sorcery, blood splattered corruption, ambition and murder with vociferous applause.

And with good reason. NBRNZO General director, Aidan Lang, had assembled a magnificent cast. Furthermore the Chapman Tripp ensemble, like some Greek chorus, were uniformly assured as a regiment of termagants -- and, as always, Vector Wellington Orchestra showed itself a sonorous class act under guest conductor, Italian-American Guido Ajmone-Marsan...

Copyright © 20 October 2010 Howard Smith,
Masterton, New Zealand


Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (Gaelic), anglicised as Macbeth, was King of the Scots from 1040 until his death in 1057. William Shakespeare's tragedy (first published in 1623) presents an inaccurate portrayal of the king's reign and personality.

With Duncan mortally wounded in August 1040, Macbeth (circa 1005-1057), accompanied by his Queen, was crowned High King of Scots at Scone outside Perth.

At that time, early Scottish history was recorded by monks. Andrew of Wyntoun, a canon of St Andrews in Fife, completed his Cronykil (1406) - a time line robbed of authenticity by the addition of old fables and even older myths.

Wyntoun tells a tale of Macbeth asleep, dreaming of three weird sisters, who in turn murmur about his destiny: as Thane of Cromarty, Thane of Moray, and lastly the King.

A later historian, Hector Boethius (1465-1536) published his Chronicle in 1527 and decided to change Macbeth's predicted titles to the Thane of Glamis and Thane of 'Cawder'.

Verdi's opera Macbeth was first performed in 1847. For NBR New Zealand Opera's 2010 production, the director was Tim Albery (UK), the associate and movement director was Maxine Braham (UK), the set designer Johan Engels (South Africa), the costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel (Germany) and the lighting designer was Bruno Poet (UK). Guido Ajmone-Marsan conducted the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus and the Vector Wellington Orchestra, and the reviewed performance took place on 16 October 2010 at St James Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand.









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