Dates and Venue 4, 6, 10, and 12 October 2012, 8pm (matinée 14 April at 2:30pm) | Royal Theatre, 1815 Blanshard Street, Victoria
Macbeth Gregory Dahl Lady Macbeth Lyne Fortin Banquo Alain Coulombe Macduff Robert Clark Malcolm Matthew Johnson
Conductor Timothy Vernon Director Morris Panych Chorus Master Giuseppe Pietraroia Set design Ken MacDonald Lighting design Alan Brodie Costume design Dana Osborne Movement Wendy Gorling Projection design Jamie Nesbitt Stage manager Sarah Robb
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
Pacific Opera Victoria has opened their current season with a spare and vivid production of Verdi’s Macbeth. As befits an opera based on a play by Shakespeare, Macbeth is directed by the well-known theatrical team of Morris Panych, director and Ken MacDonald, set designer. Together they have created an elegant production, abstract and minimal, against which the Verdi’s richly emotional score can stand out.
Cast as Lady Macbeth, possibly even more ambitious and ruthless a character than Shakespeare’s lady, Lyne Fortin was dramatically striking and burning with barely-controlled purpose. She carried off the challenges of Lady M’s dark and complex music with convincing power without sacrificing poignancy in the sleep-walking scene.
Baritone Gregory Dahl (Macbeth) was a match for his lady with a strong stage presence and his descent into paranoia and murderous madness was precisely and horrifyingly nuanced.
The understated performance of Alain Coulombe as Banquo was a perfect foil for the Macbeths’ dramatic intensity. His very still performance and smooth, velvet bass conveyed a humane warmth, noticably in the sonorous “Come dal ciel precipita”and in his relationship with his son (Ajay Parikh-Friese).
Complementing Banquo’s essential decency, Robert Clark as MacDuff brought a commanding stage presence to his part and poignancy to his interpretation. His lament for his murdered family was most moving.
The sometimes disconcerting dissonance between the dark emotions depicted in the stage action and the lighter touch of early Verdi was well linked to the “fair and foul” paradoxes and deceptions of his source material by the design team. Strong horizontals and verticals, deconstructed from the Macbeth tartan, were projected on scrims and used in the props making a light airiness contrasting with the costumes for the men and the chorus which were mostly oppressively black. Lady Macbeth’s voluptuous white gown and blood-red evening dress made a striking distinction. The chorus of Scottish refugees, a Verdian invention not found in Shakespeare, dressed in ragged grey and stretched in a single unmoving line across the stage, made an impressive sight as they sang the great lament for their country, “Patria opressa”.
In fact the chorus was impressive throughout whether as witches, or soldiers, courtiers or exiles. The orchestra too, precisely led by Timothy Vernon, played with concentrated fervour.
Imaginative, effective lighting by Alan Brodie created a mysterious, hallucinatory ambience, sometimes showing a violet horizon, sometimes flooding the stage red. Dana Osborne’s costumes were restrained in palette and conveyed information with minimal effort. Black kilted tunics both evoked Scotland and contributed to the dark atmosphere. The witches’ twiggy head-dresses re-appeared in Birnam Wood. Like a recurring figure in music, props, gestures and visual patterns repeated with variations throughout, reminding the audience of the beginnings of the tragedy and how far the protagonists have travelled down the primrose path.
This was a bold production, powerfully sung and imaginatively set. There were few ineffective ideas, the pace was quick and it was never boring. Bravo.
© 2012 Elizabeth Paterson