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This was a haunting, powerful evening in the theatre, with the supercharging led by Australian-born, Berlin-honed conductor Simone Young's capable and thrusting treatment of the music, by Anthony Michaels-Moore's totally engaging Macbeth, and by Alastair Miles's robustly sung Banquo (the two in duet were stunning).

Add to that Maria Guleghina's riveting sleepwalking Lady Macbeth and you have the makings of an evening poised nailbitingly on the edge of seats.

The Macbeths at play: Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth with Anthony Michaels-Moore (Macbeth). Photo: Performing Arts Library
The Macbeths at play: Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth with Anthony Michaels-Moore (Macbeth). Photo: Performing Arts Library

Guleghina, an established, Norma, Amelia and Aida, was incidentally one of Pavarotti's Toscas, and played opposite Domingo in his acclaimed performances as Wolf-Ferrari's Sly -- based on more Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew.

You had the feeling Simone Young (currently heading Bergen Opera and now Opera Australia) and the Royal Opera House orchestra were in control of this Macbeth from the start : Young never blanched at playing things softly; taken down several notches, the music rapidly acquired the edgy unnervingness of a Tchaikovsky overture (surprising, perhaps, that neither Berlioz nor Tchaikovsky left a Macbeth fantasy-overture); trombones were secure, clarinet and flute mocking, the Covent Garden strings robustly on-form.

Lloyd's slightly doll-like, red-clad witches, with their not-too-well-acted ritualistic gestures, failed to persuade at the start, looking ominously like the beginnings of a fretful Achim Freyer production. But as the opera progresses (I nearly said play; Lloyd, having revitalised Manchester's Royal Exchange, remains a superb Theatre director), individual witches keep popping up to manipulate the action -- most tellingly, engineering the boy Fleance's ingeniously delayed escape upon Banquo's murder.

You get a nasty feeling that here indeed are the machinations of eerie Norns who almost manically puppeteer the skein of life. They're there at Macbeth's end, too, as if swinging from his gibbet. What with Cawdor's mangled body strung up, all but full-frontal, at Macbeth's first appearance, like Mussolini rehung as a Grünewald, you feel Richard Jones couldn't have done it more nastily than this.

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Copyright © 25 July 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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