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Verdi: Macbeth / Pappano, Keenlyside, Monastyrska, Aceto [DVD]

Album Summary

>Verdi, Giuseppe : Macbeth
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Black, red, cream and gold are the colours that define Phyllida Lloyd's Royal Opera House staging of Verdi's robust, yet penetrating setting of Shakespeare's Scottish play. Manipulated by a whole coven of cunning, scarlet-turbanned witches, the characters often evoke figures in a splendid Gothic fresco. With Simon Keenlyside making his British debut, as an athletic, brooding Macbeth and Liudmyla Monastyrska as his Lady, both imperious and subtle, this performance, masterfully conducted by Antonio Pappano, goes far beyond mere sound and fury. '... an impressive company showcase, full of moments when chorus and orchestra are at full throttle. Whipped up by Antonio Pappano's baton, they sound truly thrilling.' -- The Guardian

"An impressive company showcase, full of moments when chorus and orchestra are at full throttle. Whipped up by Antonio Pappano's baton, they sound truly thrilling... Credit should perhaps go chiefly to Pappano, who keeps the pace pushing forward, but a large amount is due also to Simon Keenlyside, singing the title role in the UK for the first time. Yes, there are other baritones with more velvet in their sound, but Keenlyside captures the guilty king's uneasy swagger, lit up in the relentless chiaroscuro of Lloyd's staging. He brings innate dramatic conviction to his vocal performance as much as to his acting; his aria before the assault of Birnam Wood is tremendous." -The Guardian

"Anthony Pappano remains the go-to man for Italian opera; he even turns Verdi’s rum-tum-tum moments into suspense and urgency and makes us forget that this mostly forward-looking work was composed during his “galley” years. Pappano uses the composer’s 1865 additions but allows Macbeth’s final aria from the 1847 edition as well. It’s a dark score and Pappano gives us the weight of the situations; he keeps the music moving and lets the double basses and brass have a wonderfully gloomy field day. Assisting him in the drama is our Macbeth, the superb singing actor Simon Keenlyside. Arguably not the possessor of the juiciest of baritone voices, he nonetheless embodies the tormented character perfectly. He moves alternately stealthily and arrogantly, and is alert to everything going on around him. The voice has no trouble with the role’s high tessitura and his phrasing and sense of the Verdian line is peerless. His reading of Macbeth’s final arias renders the character a tragic figure." -Classics Today

BBC Music Magazine
Lloyd's Covent Garden staging of Verdi's opera has a good deal going for it; there's plenty of atmosphere in Anthony Ward's aptly dark-toned sets...Keenlyside sings the title role with imagination and insight, even if his lyric approach doesn't command the full cut and thrust of a true Verdi baritone...Pappano is an authoritative Verdian, punching the score out into the theatre.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 170 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM 2.0, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish


A stunning Macbeth with a psychological focus
Shakespeare's irony filled tragedy of the Scottish warrior and governor (or Thane) whose ambition drives him to murder always makes for great stage and screen. Verdi's librettist, Francesco Piave, sets the Shakespearean English into singer-ready common Italian and compacts the play into a fairly concise - and very compelling - two hours plus. It is also very interesting to watch and listen to how the essential roles are written. Macbeth and his conniving wife are written very chromatically and with some wonderfully threatening parts. King Duncan, his son Malcolm and Macduff, the general of the forces loyal to Malcolm, are given more "pure", higher and less sinuous vocals as if to draw sharp contrast between good and evil. This is some of Verdi's best music and among his most dramatic - and violent - stories, as is befitting the dark original play. This production. originally presented in 2002 at the Royal Opera, presents a visually stunning look and feel by director Phyllida Lloyd and designer Anthony Ward. Heavy on symbolism, there is the gilded cage that the murdered king's crown sits in until it is taken by Macbeth, seeming to symbolize the unattainable - or the not rightfully obtained. The poles of wood carried by the rebel army from Birnam Wood visually echo the sticks used by the cadre of red turbaned witches, with their fairly creepy "unibrow" appearance. The physical set is spare, minimalist with bursts of red - bloody and matching the turbans and the bright gold of the king's horsemen is echoed almost in parody by the armor worn by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This particular performance is of the 2011 revival and the performances are fantastic as well. Simon Keenlyside is a lean, warrior looking man who portrays his character with a nervous energy and a paranoia that grows as he realizes how accurate the witches' coven seems to be in forecasting his doom. I thought Liudmyla Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth presented perfectly as the conniving, self serving and - eventually - deranged and paranoid individual who wanted wealth and royalty by using her vain husband. Excellent performances are also given by Steven Ebel as Malcolm and Dimitri Pittas as Macduff. The orchestra and chorus of the Royal Opera House under maestro Antonio Pappano perform very well. Pappano's pacing is spot on and his use of exactly the right blend of punctuated brass and lithe string textures is exactly what is needed in Verdi. The chorus of warriors and courtiers was superbly trained by Renato Balsadonna. I enjoyed this production throughly as the first "Macbeth" I had seen (have only heard it before). This beautifully packaged DVD with excellent sound and crisp visuals makes a strong addition for any opera collection. It would even be a very compelling experience for someone just getting into opera. Well worth your time!
Submitted on 04/23/12 by Dan Coombs 
Fantastic production of Macbeth!
I must admit that whenever I see Simon Keenlyside’s name associated with an operatic production based on Shakespeare I immediately have high expectations. And this production does not disappoint in the slightest.

Everyone is familiar with the story of Macbeth, but Mr. Keenlyside brings a true-seeming broodiness to the title role – at first reluctant, then willing to commit murder at the urging of his wife (played masterfully by Liudmyla Monastryska), then expecting to triumph over the dictates of fate and finding that what the coven of witches revealed to him is becoming all too true. It is a testament to Mr. Keenlyside’s performance that you feel both sad for his character and glad to see him get what is coming to him all at the same time. The imagery of the crown being kept in a golden cage fits perfectly.

As for Lady Macbeth, Ms. Monastryska is captivating, initially greedy and cunning, but subtle and driving at the same time, simultaneously evoking feelings of sadness and just desserts as the deeds that she and her husband have done drive her sleepwalking – and the blood that has been shed preys on her subconscious. Verdi demands vocal gymnastics from his leading lady, and she delivers with room to spare. Simply marvelous.

As for the overall production itself, it is well staged, not too much set and not too minimalist, with just the right amount of blood evidenced for this viewer. Antonio Pappano does a good job with the orchestra, supporting the production and not distracting from it, while at the same time responding to the nuances of his cast. And the coven of witches (lots of them!) all in scarlet turbans is a nice touch. I enjoyed this immensely. Highly recommended!

Submitted on 06/25/12 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Verdi, Giuseppe : Macbeth
  • Performers: Raymond Aceto (Bass); Nigel Cliffe (Bass); Steven Ebel (Tenor); Simon Keenlyside (Tenor); Elisabeth Meister (Soprano); Liudmyla Monastryrska (Soprano)
  • Conductor: Antonio Pappano
  • Ensemble: Royal Opera Chorus
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1847