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Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth
30 Aug 2009

Verdi's Macbeth at the Sferisterio Opera Festival

The opera venue at Macerata shares some features with its famous counterpart in Verona: both are outdoors, with huge stages that can accommodate spectacular productions.

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Macbeth: Giuseppe Altomare; Lady Macbeth: Olha Zhuravel; Banco: Pavel Kudinov; Macduff: Rubens Pelizzari; Malcolm: Marco Voleri; Il medico: Luca Dall'Amico; Un domestico di Macbeth / I apparizione: William Corrò; Il sicario: Andrea Pistolesi; II e III apparizione: Velia Moretti de Angelis, Valeria Cazacu; Ecate: Anbeta Toromani; Fleanzio: Dario Vinciguerra. Coro Lirico Marchigiano 'V. Bellini'. FORM - Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana. Daniele Callegari, conductor. Pier Luigi Pizzi, stage director, set and costume designer. Filmed at the Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata, Italy, 2-5 August 2007.

Naxos 2.110258 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

The stage at Macerata, however, is narrow and long, rather like that used at the Salzburg Festival. For his Macbeth, director and designer Pier Luigi Pizzi makes the most of this configuration. Two long, intersecting black ramps bisect the stage, each covered in red cloth. A large pedestal made of stairs sits off to one side; the thrones of Macbeth and his lady, in garish red, will sit atop that pedestal. All the costumes are in black, gunmetal, or red, usually in shiny fabrics. Verdi’s music for Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy explores the shifting psychological landscape of its twisted anti-heroes, and Pizzi’s dramatic color scheme and athletic use of movement makes this a most exciting staging.

None of the singers’ names may be familiar to U.S. audiences, and none may ever be so. They have all been cast well, however, and make potent contributiions to Pizzi’s success. Giuseppe Altomare sings Macbeth with a rough-edged baritone, but that element of forced bluster plays well for the character. Verdi and librettist Piave did not include the lines about Macbeth seeming too small a man for his royal robes, but Pizzi does have Altomare in a long jacket with train that seems to swallow him up in the last act. The biographical note in the booklet relates that soprano Olha Zhuravel has been singing a lot of Turandots, and has taken on Nabucco’s Abigaille. The voice would be what that suggests - sizable, but not beautiful, with more thrust than elegance. Her ghoulish makeup is a rare misstep for Pizzi’s production; it makes a performance that threatens to be unvaried vocally even less subtle. Zhuravel is strong, it should be said, all the way to her climatic scene, which lacks that touch of pathos the role’s greatest interpreters managed to produce. Rubens Pelizarri in the tenor role of Macduff blasts through his aria without tenderness or sensitivity.

Gheorghe Iancu’s choreography dominates the opening and, quite naturally, the extended ballet. Too much stomping and stamping mars the music in act one. The ballet comes off quite well, though. In its most striking image, the female lead dancer is lifted up and then one by one kicks down a row of soldier/dancers lined up on the ramp.

The Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana responds well to the energetic leadership of Daniele Callegari, although the horns don’t always agree on pitch. Fans of this opera definitely should give this Naxos set a chance. The better-known CD recordings all feature more impressive singing, but the visual power of Pizzi’s work here makes for a very strong Macbeth.

Chris Mullins

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