Enthusiastic applause greeted the final curtain of this rare staging in its original version of Verdi’s opera as part of this year’s Buxton International Festival, as it is now known.
Almost certainly generated by the audience having experienced a highly dramatic, often compelling performance, it also revealed that the 1865 version (the one usually heard) is not as overwhelmingly superior as it is held up to be.
Verdi’s first thoughts in 1847 may appear a little rough and ready by comparison but they were more direct and incisive. Only with Lady Macbeth’s act two aria La luce langue can the revised version be said to truly score – not that the one it replaced is exactly a disaster!
Distinguished stage director Elijah Moshinsky lets Verdi tell the story with little interference in a minimalist, darkly lit production, heightening the dangers lurking round every corner.
A miscalculation is the dead Lady Macbeth’s body being wheeled on for Macbeth to grieve over before Birnam Woods ‘walk’, suggesting the aria he sings over the corpse is associated with it instead of him feeling sorry for himself before being told she was dead, offstage!
A much more clever and successful idea is the witches engaging in a Tiller Girl dance routine across the front of the stage at the start of act three, although having the chorus of refugees at the same location singing seated in a line at act four’s outset made little dramatic sense.
What definitely does, though, are both instances of video pyrotechnic projection; and having Malcolm in full battle regalia singing from a balcony box high up in the Opera House auditorium was a production whim that came off.
Music values are generally high, although a question mark surfaces over Kate Ladner’s totally committed Lady Macbeth. Vocally, she gives it her all and excitingly shirks nothing in the role’s high register work, but there is not a lot of vocal body supporting it below.
It suggested the part is not for her, at least at this stage in her career if she wants it to continue and not risk burn out.
Stephen Gadd’s no less committed Macbeth is sturdily and tirelessly sung while capturing the character’s uncertainty over his murderous actions, but his stage presence is not particularly strong in creating the all-conquering general he is supposed to be.
Young Moldovan bass Oleg Tsibulko makes a highly favourable impression for the future as Banquo and South Korean tenor Jung Soo Yun turns in an extremely well sung, open-throated account of Macduff’s act four aria, but tends to look a trifle lost dramatically much of time.
First night nerves, perhaps? – which may also have something to do with the afflictions suffered every so often by the usually ultra-reliable augmented Northern Chamber Orchestra under the entirely idiomatic baton of Stephen Barlow.
No such problems for superb Festival Chorus, from which tenor Luke Sinclair has a night off to make a splendid Malcolm in his ‘bird nest’!