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A Mirror of Control

Chelsea Opera Group's 'Macbeth',
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


Despite giving us a superb semi-staging (pre-closure), the Royal Opera House seems to have fallen out of love with the 1847 version of Verdi's Macbeth. The promised full staging has never materialised, so it has been left to the Chelsea Opera Group to provide us with a further opportunity to hear Verdi's fascinating original version.

Chelsea Opera Group 'Macbeth' (1847 version)

When reviving the opera for the Paris Opera in 1865, Verdi made a number of adjustments to the work. He added a ballet and made the role of Macbeth less taxing by taking a key scene down a tone but he also adjusted the general tone of the work. By judicious cutting and adding new music (but carefully preserving the work's original sound world), he moved the opera closer to his recent work and muddied the work's links with the world of Donizetti. In the 1847 version Lady Macbeth's Act 2 aria is pure coloratura and for the finale Verdi dropped the traditional bel canto sequence of final aria for the heroine (Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene), final aria for the hero (Macbeth's death) and then curtain. Instead he cut Macbeth's aria and created an entirely new final scene for Malcolm's coronation.

I have always been fond of the 1847 version: I find the revised ending profoundly unconvincing and prefer the starker end of the original. Also, in the correct hands, Lady Macbeth's Act 2 aria, Trionfai, is superb and fits far better with her mood than Verdi's later introspective aria.

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Copyright © 2 April 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK


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