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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Macbeth

photo: Ken Howard

The Met Opera has been on such a roll with their most recent new productions that a bummer was bound to happen sooner or later, and here it is with Adrian Noble's staging of Verdi's Macbeth. The production means to set the story in post WW2 Europe, but the conceit never takes hold thanks to inconsistent visual design. Worse, Noble seems to follow every good idea with a bad one: the moments of simple and effective theatricality (for instance there's a neat effect with a banner during the banquet scene) are ultimately undone by the more common moments of counterproductive theatrical business (for instance, Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene happens here on chairs that her attendants keep rearranging so that she doesn't fall: while that may make some poetic sense, it dillutes the scene's dramatic impact). When the beleagured people congregate in the last act to rise up in rebellion, there's a minute of some Les Miserables-like scampering forward before everyone is lined up downstage in bland formation, way too common an occurence in this production. Of course, strong performances could overcome a mediocore presentation like this one, but despite James Levine's tight, tense conducting in the pit, this Macbeth was musically problematic. Cursed with the mismatch of a sometimes vocally underpowered and underplaying Zeljko Lucic in the lead role, and a histronic, screechy overacting Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth, the loudest applause at this performance was for Macduff (Dimitri Pittas).

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