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RODERIC DUNNETT enjoys
Verdi's 'Macbeth' at Covent Garden

 

Macbeth may already be the shortest of Shakespeare's 'four great' tragedies, but with his competent conflation the librettist Francesco Maria Piave served the young Verdi well. The opera dates from 1847, and although normally seen as 'late early' and hence immature, it joins Luisa Miller among those operas that put his career well on course by the immortal 1850s -- the years of Traviata, Trovatore and Rigoletto.

Anthony Michaels-Moore as a bloodied Macbeth following Duncan's murder. Photo: Performing Arts Library
Anthony Michaels-Moore as a bloodied Macbeth following Duncan's murder. Photo: Performing Arts Library

The present Royal Opera cast in this typically well-thought-through, imaginative production by Phyllida Lloyd and her regular collaborator, designer Anthony Ward, (invariably a sublimely intelligent pairing) had something to live up to. Tito Gobbi sang the title role, created for Verdi at Florence's Teatro della Pergola by Felice Varesi, in Michael Benthall's Covent Garden production, opposite Amy Shuard at Covent Garden in 1960 (Callas was originally scheduled to appear); Renato Bruson (opposite Renata Scotto and Robert Lloyd as Banquo) succeeded to the title role when Elijah Moshinsky's new production replaced Benthall's in 1981.

Today's cast was first heard in concert performances (of the original 1847 version) in 1997, by way of 150th anniversary celebration. Lloyd's and Ward's staging -- a few consistent, strongly chosen images somehow manage superbly to conjure that creepy and bloody era, when brothers and cousins slogged it out for ill-defined regal inheritances -- uses Verdi's later thoughts on Macbeth, the 1865 version.

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Copyright © 25 July 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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RODERIC DUNNETT ON THE RESIGNATION OF NICHOLAS PAYNE

THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, COVENT GARDEN WEBSITE

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