Left – Elizabeth Whitehouse and Michael Lewis. Conductor: Nicholas Braithwaite.
Opera Queensland's first production for 2012 is as bold and dramatic as they come. Verdi's operatic interpretation of Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's most intense tragedies is presented in concert. The Opera Queensland Chorus and Queensland Symphony Orchestra complete this ensemble piece alongside a superb cast.
Verdi's score articulates with vigour and delicacy, every treacherous and bloody twist and turn. While aspects of this centuries apart collaboration sit side by side like an oxymoron, (a British playwright's work written in thick prose set in Scotland brought to life via an orchestral score and sung à la Italian libretto) once I relaxed my preconceived ideas on how Shakespeare should play on any stage and allowed the music and the vocals to move through me, I discovered how deeply moving and powerful Verdi's interpretation is.
Michael Lewis, one of Australia's leading baritones, plays the title role. His fine performance highlights Macbeth's political desires while revealing his weaknesses. As Macbeth's fate spirals out of control, Lewis' voice leads the audience through the darkness, despair and madness. Lady Macbeth is played by soprano Elizabeth Whitehouse. Her voice encapsulates Lady Macbeth's lust for power and her determination to take the throne at any cost. Whitehouse's emotive performance was engaging from the moment Lady Macbeth received her husband's letter, through to her descent brought on by guilt and the blood of her victims.
Other powerful performances were given by Andrew Collis as Banquo and Kaludi Kaludow as Macduff. When Macduff discovers his slain wife and children, tenor Kaludi exquisitely communicates the extreme pathos of Macduff's plight. Virgilio Marino as Malcolm and Emily Burke as the Lady in Waiting also give standout performances.
Nicholas Braithwaite conducts and brings together each element to exemplify the tyranny, cruelty and inherent tragedy of the piece. Staging was by Lindy Hume, Artistic Director of Opera Queensland. Surtitles were provided for the performance and the costuming and staging was minimal. While the lighting changes and costume did add slightly to the effect of the performance, it didn't meaningfully increase or heighten the dramatics of the experience.
Verdi's Macbeth is indeed a memorable interpretation. It was the prettiest I've ever heard the Weird sister's verse performed and my notions of what's possible as far as Shakespeare's work retaining its potency, when it's reinvented and transmuted across art forms, was definitely challenged. As a non-seasoned opera goer, I was delighted by just how powerful and deeply this performance resonated and communicated the narrative of Macbeth.
Opera Queensland presents
MACBETH in Concert
Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite
Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC
Dates: Friday 13 and Saturday 14 April, 2012
Tickets: $88.25 – $51.25
Bookings: qtix 136 246 | www.qtix.com.au