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As the Lady, Urmana was dynamic and passionate; her gleaming voice negotiated the complexities of the part with ease. Though her voice is developing in the direction of bigger roles, Urmana's soprano is currently ideal for these roles which require a combination of power and flexibility; it helps that she can negotiate the fioriture with ease. My only concern is that on this and previous appearances at Covent Garden, her voice shows a degree of instability in the upper register; this is only a small point at the moment but could become cause for concern as she moves into bigger roles. (She is slated to do Isolde in Vienna and Cologne.)

I could wish that Lloyd had staged Urmana's sleep-walking scene in a more abstract, less naturalistic fashion. Lloyd gives full weight to the more fantastic scenes in the opera; the apparitions and the appearance of the parade of Kings are done in a superbly spectacular manner with much use of gilt. Lloyd and her designer, Anthony Ward, repeatedly use gilt to emphasise aspects of kingship in what is otherwise a dark and drab world. Lloyd also seems to associate a golden cage with king-ship; golden cages make repeated appearances once Macbeth has become King. These things help to mythologise the role of the King and make Macbeth's action even more daring. But in the sleep-walking scene, Lloyd eschews any mythological aspects and stages the Lady's final appearance as a purely domestic drama; still it did mean that nothing in the staging detracted from Urmana's beautiful and chilling realisation of role.

Elsewhere, Lloyd's staging is admirable and imaginative in the way she runs scenes together, keeping the flow of the production and raising interesting echoes; the guests at the banquet become refugees, Macbeth and the Lady lie prone on their beds whilst the chorus of exiles goes on around them. I could wish every producer was so sympathetic to keeping the drama moving; special scenic effects are only special if you don't have to spend an age waiting for them.

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Copyright © 22 February 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


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