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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

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Nov 11, 2011 10:39:00 AM
By BLO Staff

“Blood
and murder ignite us”
–Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, duet, Act II

Blood and
murder fueled the intense production of Boston Lyric Opera’s Macbeth this past Wednesday at The Citi
Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre. Although many people know the story of Macbeth—from those who studied the play
in school to those who are Shakespeare aficionados-- the libretto and
composition of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth
do not always follow the source material.

The score
is filled with both sinister and powerful musical themes matched well with
equally ominous text or parts of the plot. But, Verdi also composed interesting
and specific harmonic choices, some that almost seem too bright or “major” sounding for what is actually being
communicated. Those elements of the score, accompanied by David Schweizer’s
abstract directorial choices and John Conklin’s somewhat primitive-looking
artistry, are very creepy. In many instances this eerie juxtaposition comes to
life through the chorus, whose controlled sound and jagged movements dominate
several scenes.

At the
outset during the overture, a stark stage of a single metal platform greeted
the audience. Above this hung dozens of body bags; an unsettling images even
for the most “seasoned” opera patron. The Macbeth’s lust for power increases as
do the number of unjustified murders, and this progression is visually
represented as death on the stage. With each murder (Duncan, Banquo, Lady
Macduff and Lady Macbeth), the dead haunt the stage dressed in white. Whether
depicted in the dangling body bags or lingering in poignant scenes, it seemed
that the dead never quite leave this
world, which provided the supernatural effect to the production. At the same
time, this highlighted the underlying psychological effects each death has on
the progression of the plot. The presence of the dead continues until the final
moments of the opera when Macbeth is murdered by Macduff after his one final
bloody attempt to maintain his position of power. He is then engulfed by the chorus,
who wrap him and raise him up to join the other portentous body bags.

Throughout
all of this, the chorus represented the supernatural (the Weird Sisters) and
reality (many times portraying soldiers, mobs, etc): another interesting choice
by Verdi. Although sometimes the attention distracted from the nuances in the
music by the busy staging, overall the energy on the stage and the energy
within the music were matched. The driving force was the orchestra, which was
especially good, thanks to an elegant approach to the score by Music Director
David Angus. When at their full sound, along with the full force of the chorus,
the musicians created some magical and pivotal moments. The role of Macbeth was
played by Daniel Sutin and Lady Macbeth by Carter Scott, both making their BLO
debuts. Each had strong musical moments individually, but were most effective
as a conspiring, enabling couple. Banquo (Darren Stokes) had a full voice and
had an effective ghostly presence. The moment that seemed to be the favorite of
the night was Macduff’s famous aria “Ah, la paterna mano,” sung effortlessly
and with elegant line by tenor Richard Crawley. John Irvin (Malcolm), Michelle Trainor (Lady in Waiting) and David Cushing
(Doctor), all BLO Emerging Artists, sang well and were memorable despite their
smaller roles. Overall, Macbeth was
solid across the board and served as an artistic pioneer for the BLO
productions to come!

As a
singer, attending opera is essential for my education as a musician. But, it is
something I also truly enjoy, because the experience is very different and
beautiful each time! It was so great to see all of the other eager Boston students come to
Wednesday’s Macbeth Student Night. For many of the students that attended, it
was their first or second time at the opera, but said it is a cool experience
for any age, and that they will definitely return! (Hope to see familiar faces
at The Lighthouse!)

--Melanie Burbules, Boston University '14

Topics: Student Posts, macbeth, Student Night at the Opera

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