Macbeth

Verdi Macbeth opera to libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and Andrea Maffei. Revival directed 2011 by Harry Fehr at the Royal Opera House of the Phyllida Lloyd 2002 production. Stars Simon Keenlyside (Macbeth), Raymond Aceto (Banquo), Liudmyla Monastyrska (Lady Macbeth), Elizabeth Meister (Lady-in-Waiting ), Nigel Cliffe (Servant to Macbeth), Ian Lindsay (Duncan), Steven Ebel (Malcolm), Dmitri Pittas (Macduff), Will Richardson (Fleance), Olle Zetterström (Assassin), Jonathan Fisher (First Apparition), William Payne (Secnad Apparition), Archie Buchanan (Third Apparition), Jonathan Coad (Herald), and Lukas Jakobski (Doctor.) Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Peter Manning) and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna). Designs by Anthony Ward; lighting design by Paule Constable; original choreography by Michael Keegan-Dolan revived by Kirsty Tapp; fight direction by Terry King. Directed for TV by Sue Judd; produced by James Whitmourn. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

The singing, acting, direction, sets, costumes, picture quality, video content, and sound quality are all impressive; it was such a pleasure to experience an opera version of this play that I know pretty well from readings, theater stage, and movie versions.

The only critical comments I've heard about this show would be assertions that Monastyrska was not up to the acting requirements of Lady Macbeth. So I was expecting to be unimpressed by her. Turned out differently.  True, Monastyrska is heavy, but she is also quite pretty. So I think she's a feasible middle-aged Lady Macbeth.  Monastyrska does have a tendency to back up the powerful emotions she registers by making faces, even to the point of crossing her eyes.  This would probably look ridiculous on a theater stage. But when seen on the face of a woman who is singing accurately over the voices of 50 other opera singers, her expressions don't seem that outlandish. In any event, I found her pretty scary. And I found myself completely sucked into the famous "damned spot" scene where Lady Macbeth is observed by the doctor and the lady-in-waiting. 

William R. Braun gave this Macbeth a glowing review in the July 2012 Opera News (page 51). He praises everybody, but especially the stage directors for telling the story "clearly" and video director Sue Judd for filming "in a way that allows us to listen to the music." Braun means by this that he admires Judd for giving plenty of long-range shots while avoiding "pointless moving camera shots or ping-pong edits." It's rare for a magazine opera critic to notice the video picture content as Braun does. But you still can't tell if Braun saw this in DVD, Blu-ray, or both. Later, in the January, 2013 Opera News (page 59) this Macbeth got a "2012 Best of the Year" award.

Since I'm backed up by two esteemed experts in liking this title, I'll give it an "A" grade.