Let the naysayers say what they want about Hampson being too lightweight for Verdi, I will go out on a limb and say there has probably never been a better Macbeth since Verdi let the ink dry on his opera.
This production from the Opernhaus Zurich is nothing short of amazing. Stefanos Lazaridis has provided a unit set which offers a terrific acting space for David Poutney's mostly telling direction and a cast that believed every gesture and convincingly wore every costume (including a few doozies) Poutney gave them.
Visually, this may be the most satisfying picture I've yet seen on DVD, almost "hyper real" which made the sound, while definitely clear and "real live" sounded a little boxy, like an old recording which has been cleaned up. It doesn't matter for as a whole this show works!
The chorus work was stunning, and although singing as a unified whole, each member seemed a distinct personality and "acted" as intense as the principals. Simply remarkable.
Roberto Scandiuzzi is a singer I've always liked but sounds a little fuzzy these days, but still is a compelling presence and though Banquo. His murder scene was a little odd, with his son Fleance, played by a little child. This was one of the scene's where Poutney went a little too heavy on the direction: Fleance pulls an old-fashioned typewriter out of a hole in the floor, Banquo putting up police posters of . . . I don't know what, war criminals? I didn't quite get some of the symbolism, e.g., Banquo killed by a couple of drag queens . . . etc.
What I did "get" for the first time, was a satisfactory performance from the witches. I'm embarassed to admit this but the witch music has never been spooky enough for this dark, dark opera and I wondered what Verdi had in mind. Well Poutney gives us an enormous chorus of witches of every stripe, elegant, trashy, poor, wealthy looking, cartoon characters all and it works with the music. The importance of the witches and their revelations to Macbeth and his reliance upon it all comes clear as if for the first time (to me, anyway). Lots can be read into it, but what I came away with was the "every woman" as witch, (sorry ladies!) . . . or with that type of power over man.
Heavy on the symbolism list also seemed to be time (and the passing of it) which made itself evident in unusual ways, a beautiful scrim with a clock face, the Macbeth's hairdos (or hair don'ts) as well as news (or its relevance) with corpses wrapped in news print, chorus members in costumes of news print, or graffiti, etc.
It's nice to see Luis Lima's name again, I thought he'd disappeared. He still looks good, and the voice is in good shape, though it's a little pressed and effortful, but his work in this relatively brief assignment is dignified and he brought much to it.
Paoletta Marrocu is a dazzingly, disturbed Lady. Her voice is exciting, distinctive without being what one would call "pretty" - which is certainly to advantage in this role. She has an arsenal of great effects, with spot-on trills which she uses excitingly in her best scene - the drinking song following Banquo's murder. She's first seen on top of the Macbeth Castle - a sort of plexiglass cube, rotated and moved on and off stage as needed, she doesn't "read" the letter, but rather recites it, and we see Macbeth writing it . . . little touches like this added much punch to the drama. Her costume
a send-up of a 70's Halston-style gown - with about 85% of her quite
lovely cleavage on display, and, as previously mentioned, early 70's Callas-style hair do make her a striking physical presence. The audience adored her. So do I.
Marrocu's Sleepwalking scene was effectively sung, but a little over the top in direction, but she convinced nonetheless because she looked like she believed it. I did like Poutney's touch of having it played in brilliant, white - almost asylum like brightness and Marrocu was appropriately crazed.
Crazed is just the right word for Hampson's demented performance. Bold, youthful, arrogant at first, you see his Macbeth as one consumed with power and the getting of it. Then, you start watching his human side cracking through the facade and we're left with a multi-layered Macbeth the likes of which I've never seen. No, Hampson doesn't have the heft to match Warren in sound, but what he does bring to the picture is such perfect word-to-music relationship, a belief in every gesture, every word and he sings as much with his eyes as with his voice. His rage and mad fury comes across effectively and never does he sound taxed by the music.
Following the "Vendetta" duet the exhausted, nearly dead Macbeth has been rejuvenated, invigorated, and having had his nails painted, stripped of shoes and socks and put in drag by the witches for a little dance, astride a box, he grabs his lady for a giant kiss and instead gets bitten by her, sending him off again, mad, but in another direction.
Hampson's is almost a painfully beautiful performance, never studied or mannered, as is he is so often accused of. When this Macbeth starts his descent into madness, following Banquo's murder you believe he sees what he he sees. Hampson's work throughout is compelling, thrilling stuff and he left me drained.
Franz Welser Most conducts a musically tight performance with everybody jumping in to give what may be the best performances of their lives.
I can't recommend this high enough!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?