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Piave's Macbeth shifts, too. I made it a mere twenty second plotters' exchange before Duncan's pygmy retinue swishes in : if you're planning regicide, do it quick, before it leaks. The shift to white light from the innocent gold that bathes Duncan forewarns us : a single beam from the door makes do for the dagger, up and down which Michaels-Moore's anxious Macbeth paces; highly effective.

The duo's guilty recitatives are crystal clear, the cellos (as she cossets the bloody frame of her husband) positively ironic, the nervy violas (preceding her renewed 'be firm in your purpose') eerie and chilling. Guleghina's 'The night is falling', added by Verdi for the 1865 version, was one of the finest set pieces of the whole evening.

Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth. Photo: Performing Arts Library
Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth. Photo: Performing Arts Library

Banquo gets a set piece, too, for it is he -- not Ross and Lennox, as the Bard has it -- whom Piave makes arrive, along with Will Hartmann's finely sung MacDuff (Cologne-trained, Hartmann now sings with Opera Hannover).

Banquo's murder -- cleverly done, as en famille he visits Duncan's mausoleum, where the murderers lurk in monks' habits more like something out of Richard III -- armed with just sad trombones and strings ironically doubling his apprehensions -- paves the way for an equally chilling ghost scene : no banquet table, just an obligingly peripatetic chorus, rendering the trio's actions the clearer. Guleghina tops out the chorus superbly; and as Macbeth recovers (yet again), Verdi adds a riveting passage in violins and violas, welling up again. But the writing is on the wall : this Macbeth is already done for.

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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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