With its big, bold production of 'Macbeth," Opera Theatre aptly conveyed Shakespeare's epic tale of political power and paranoia.
Guiseppe Verdi's melodic, smooth score is passionately sung by a superb cast of principals, with an outstanding ensemble whose wall of sound is sensational. Their crystal-clear harmonies and precise execution were masterful, one of the best choruses to date.
The production values are also strong — an eeriness permeated the sparse yet savvy set design by Alex Eales, with flashes of lightning and storm-swollen clouds casting a pall. Shades of gray illustrate the desolation, while innovative lighting design by Christopher Akerlind create new textures and different moods. The power couple's dining table glowed.
Set during a Scottish civil war in the Middle Ages, "Macbeth" shows the lauded general's rise in royal ranking, but he can't be content until his rivals are vanquished. His ruthless ambition creates a tangled web that can only lead to more bad things happening.
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The libretto by Francesco Maria Piave pared down the tragedy to the basics by virtue of the medium, but the key elements are there — the witches' prophecies, the king's murder, the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth, the slaughter of Macduff's family and treachery galore. The score is sung in English.
As the title character, baritone Roland Wood depicted the cold-blooded mindset and internal torment. The good soldier isn't invincible, after all, and his rule is doomed. While sitting on his throne, Wood delivered an impeccable aria in the second act.
Manipulative Lady Macbeth's descent into madness is believable, and soprano Julie Makerov is an imposing queen.
Strong in supporting roles are Matthew Plenk as rival Macduff, Evan LeRoy Johnson as King Duncan's heir Malcolm, and Robert Pomakov as friend Banquo.
Conductor Stephen Lord did masterful work, and the St. Louis Symphony's superbly performed Verdi. Special mention to chorus master Robert Ainsley, who has done remarkable work with that glorious chorus.
Director Lee Blakeley fluidly moved his large cast across the landscape, with seamless transitions, and fight choreographer Shaun Sheley's expertise did not go unnoticed.
This is the first time Opera Theatre has staged the classic, and their interpretation is powerful, with Verdi's dramatic score intense and polished. The robust ovations opening night indicated this dark portrait featured the talent to bring a fresh version to life.
- What: Opera Theatre of St. Louis
- When: 8 p.m. June 10, 16, 18, 22, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. June 26
- Where: Loretto-Hilton Center (Webster University), 130 Edgar Road, St. Louis
- Information: www.experienceopera.org or 314-961-0644