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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION

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The hallmark of the production is apparently 'dramatic nudity'. This means nothing more startling than extreme economy in the sets, and therefore intense concentration on the opera's characters. Much of the time we are greyly walled in beyond anything that Scottish weather or architecture might imply, let alone the sort of staging Verdi had in mind. But with Duncan murdered, Macbeth and 'Lady' in hectic colloquy need no distraction [listen -- 'Sappia la sposa mia (Act 1), DVD1 chapter 10, 4:30-5:45]. This was the scene Verdi rehearsed endlessly before the 1847 première in Florence. It cannot be said that Carlos Álvarez and Maria Guleghina quite achieve the deathly conspiratorial atmosphere Verdi was after.

Macbeth (Carlos Álvarez) discovers Banquo (Roberto Scandiuzzi) at the back of the gilded cage, in Act 2 of 'Macbeth'. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte
Macbeth (Carlos Álvarez) discovers Banquo (Roberto Scandiuzzi) at the back of the gilded cage, in Act 2 of 'Macbeth'. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte

With the Macbeths seemingly secure on their thrones, it remains for the court to celebrate. Verdi knows exactly how to do this with an air of reckless frivolity that can only enhance the ghostly appearance of dead Banquo [listen -- 'Finale 2' (Act 2), DVD1 chapter 18, 0:43-1:56]. Lady Macbeth manages one of the most intoxicating of Verdi's drinking-songs, and all goes splendidly till Macbeth alone beholds the fatal vision. Banquo is manifested at the back of the gilded cage confining the royal pair, a spectre spreadeagled in the manner of a crucified St Andrew, terrifying enough to the distraught Macbeth [listen -- 'Che ti scosta' (Act 2), DVD1 chapter 19, 2:05-3:23].

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Copyright © 1 March 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller