I have always considered Macbeth one of Verdi's better early operas. It is not one of his best overall but the story, characters and the music are incredibly compelling. This 2004 Barcelona production is outstanding and my second personal favourite of the six Macbeth productions seen so far, which are including this, 1976 La Scala with Cappuccilli and Verrett(my favourite), the 1987 version with Nucci and Verrett, 1987 with Bruson and Zampieri, 2002 Zurich production with Hampson and Morroccu and the 2008 Met production with Lucic and Guleghina.
The costumes are rather generic, though thankfully not as unflattering as the Met production which had Guleghina's breasts literally hanging out. However the sets and lighting add much to the evocative atmosphere, minimalist but loaded with unpretentious blood symbolism. Musically, it is just as effective, with Bruno Campanella providing a brisk reading as conductor. Under him the orchestra play with a rich sound, if occasionally underpowered by the mics and the dry acoustic, and the chorus, who have a lot to do in this opera, are vocally and dramatically excellent. The witches are wonderfully creepy also. And the principal performances I can find little to fault. Carlos Alvarez's Macbeth is as outstanding as the production itself. Vocally he is ideal for the role with a dark, burnished baritone sound, and dramatically he is intense, paranoid, megalomaniac and even moving in his final aria.
He is matched perfectly by a great cast, not least Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth. Her voice is not what I call beautiful, but it is still forceful and commanding and her interpretation as well as seductive and shrewish is bloodcurdling to say the least. Her most polished singing is in her big Sleepwalking scene, which is stunning, charismatic acting and vocally spot-on singing at its best. Robert Scanduizzi is a just as impressive Banquo. I do find him in better voice than he was in the 2002 Zurich performance, with an even more sonorous sound here than to there, and dramatically he is as riveting as Alvarez and Guleghina. His murder scene is scary and very suspenseful and his appearance at the banquet is genuinely frightening. Marco Berti's Macduff is very promising, apart from some vocal tightness at the start his singing is mostly ringing and in the latter acts he is very moving. Javier Palacios and Begona Alberdi also impress, he dramatically satisfying when he is crowned King of Scotland and she with a fine rich contralto.
Overall, outstanding. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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