Brevity and magnificence

Macbeth
Composed by: Giuseppe Verdi
Conducted by: Oliver Dohnányi
Where: Slovak National Theatre (SND), Hviezdoslavovo námestie, Bratislava
Next performances: May 27, at 19:00
Performed: in four acts, in Italian with Slovak supertitles
Rating: 7 out of 10

BREVITY and magnificence - two words that signalled a revolution in Italian opera - were at the heart of Giuseppe Verdi's interpretation of Macbeth. His insistence upon short, dramatically dense verses, often based on the great dramas of William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, and Francois Voltaire, shifted opera's traditional focus from the music to the text, which Verdi felt was the source of its complexity, drama, and emotion.

Macbeth
Composed by: Giuseppe Verdi
Conducted by: Oliver Dohnányi
Where: Slovak National Theatre (SND), Hviezdoslavovo námestie, Bratislava
Next performances: May 27, at 19:00
Performed: in four acts, in Italian with Slovak supertitles
Rating: 7 out of 10


BREVITY and magnificence - two words that signalled a revolution in Italian opera - were at the heart of Giuseppe Verdi's interpretation of Macbeth. His insistence upon short, dramatically dense verses, often based on the great dramas of William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, and Francois Voltaire, shifted opera's traditional focus from the music to the text, which Verdi felt was the source of its complexity, drama, and emotion.

From the beginning, this production of Macbeth at the capital's SND effectively emphasized the opera's mysterious, foreboding qualities - e.g. kings, witches, and prophecies - but its numerous twirling dancers and intrusive scenery and staging were distracting, preventing the musicians, singers, and text from playing their intended primary roles.

As the opera begins, Macbeth and Banquo, who serve under King Duncan of Scotland, come upon witches prophesying Macbeth's ascent to the throne, and the descent of future kings from Banquo. Lady Macbeth soon learns of this prophecy and becomes obsessed with attaining the power it promises. She convinces her husband to murder Duncan. The king's son, Malcolm, is suspected and flees, leaving Macbeth to become king.

Zoltán Vongrey presented a strong Macbeth (on April 1), with crystalline diction and impressive vocal stamina. Naná Miriani (Lady Macbeth) sang her first aria with thickness and power in her lower register and delicate precision in the more ornamented, higher phrases. Ján Galla (Banquo) had a rich voice that stayed well-grounded as he approached higher, more difficult notes, but his pitch often went flat.

The drama continues as Macbeth, overwhelmed with ambition, has Banquo murdered, and is then haunted by his ghost. Meanwhile, Macduff, a heroic fighter who served loyally under King Duncan, discovers that his wife and children have been murdered by Macbeth. He swears revenge, and joins Malcolm, who has returned from exile, to attack Macbeth's kingdom.

Tomáš Juhás (Malcolm) had strong stage presence and a powerful, resonant voice that filled the theatre. Michal Lehotský (Macduff) used his scenes and arias, especially O Figli Mei ..., and Ah, La Paterna Mano, to demonstrate a great command of the passionate Verdi style. The smoothness and emotion of his vocal line were exciting, intense, and effective.

In act three, the Sleepwalking Scene, Lady Macbeth's acting skills came to the forefront. Her haunted expression and deep concentration were particularly compelling, highlighting the opera's magnificence.

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