The Lady steals the spotlight in ROH's Macbeth

The Lady steals the spotlight in ROH's Macbeth

Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

Anna Netrebko triumphed yesterday as Lady Macbeth in the third revival of Phyllida Lloyd's 2002 production of Macbeth for The Royal Opera. While sitting through this opera it almost felt as if the piece was a vehicle for her to show her capability as an artist. Lloyd's production remains current and the drama of Verdi's opera alone is enough reason to get tickets for this show.

Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth and Željko Lučić as Macbeth in Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

Verdi's Macbeth is not without operatic and dramatic challenges. When we meet our titular character and Banquo, they aren't given heroic entrances like Otello, or even a cavatina like Lady Macbeth's entrance aria. With grim underlay, the two wander into the camp of witches and speak to each other in hushed and nervous tones. There's also very little time to establish a relationship between the Thane of Glamis and his wife, as when Macbeth greets his wife for the first time in the opera they have to get down to slaughtering, stat.

Production image of Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

What Verdi does illustrate brilliantly is the power struggle and fight for status between this couple. Who is the driving force behind all of these horrible acts? It could be either one of the power-hungry duo, although at times it's clear that behind every powerful man there is an even more powerful woman. And while the ferocious strength of Lady Macbeth is thrilling to watch on stage, it makes Macbeth himself seem fickle and weak if he is not pursuing his conquest of his on accord. This weakness becomes a substitute for the true mental torment and conflict that Macbeth surely must experience over the course of the opera.

Željko Lučić as Macbeth and Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

The whole evening I was missing a real link, a chemical bond between the two leads of this opera. They acted according to their own interest - and rightfully so - but watching them act in their own worlds, it was hard to tell that the couple were married and indeed, a team working together.

Željko Lučić as Macbeth in Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

Hearing a singer such as Željko Lučić who was constantly dragging behind the orchestra made being an audience member a bit frustrating. The impression is made was that Lučić had his own ideas about the speeds of his music, and stubbornly tried to force the orchestra to follow him and not the conductor. This may have been forgiven if the quality of his voice sparkled or had more presence in the hall but the lack of energy just made the Serbian baritone's performance fall flat. I noticed a few audience members dozing off during his Act IV aria, but that may have just been around where I was sitting.

Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

The timing of Lučić was particularly noticeable against the machine-like consistency with which the ROH chorus sing under the baton of Antonio Pappano. It is also worth pointing out that within Pappano's tempi, Anna Netrebko seemed to mold each moment within the confines of rhythm to express her character's emotion. This is, in my opinion, what bel canto rubato is all about.

Netrebko gave a perfect performance of Lady Macbeth, surged with power while full of depth and nuance. She takes us on a full journey from the ambitious Medici to woman driven to madness. Watching her attempting to wash the blood off her hands in "Una macchia" sent shivers down my spine. Every note that came out of her body was filled with life, every movement of her hand could have been an opera of its own.

Production image of Macbeth, ROH, 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper.

Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov was remarkable in the role of Macduff, milking every moment of his aria, "Ah, la paterna mano." Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Banquo filled the house with a warm sound, and Jette Parker Young Artist Konu Kim gave an impressive Malcolm.

Macbeth runs at the Royal Opera House until April 7th, with a live performance broadcast to cinemas on April 4th.

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Written by

John Beckett

John Beckett

John Beckett is a writer, opera repetiteur and vocal coach currently residing in London, UK. With dreams of becoming a concert pianist, he quickly switched track to playing for singers after seeing how fewer notes are in accompaniment parts than in solo music. In spite of this, his favorite art song is "Apparition" by Debussy.

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