‘Macbeth’ review: Heartbreaking Lyric Opera production casts a spell on eager audiences


The standing ovations were huge, even before the show itself started. It has not been 18 months, in this era of COVID devastation, that the crowds have been able to gather at the Opéra Lyrique. Their return on September 17, finally, in party mode by thousands of diligently masked people, was for Verdi’s supernatural “Macbeth”.

David McVicar’s heart-wrenching and bewitched production debuted in a beautifully refreshed auditorium. The legendary gilding of the room is still intact, of course, but all is soothed by the fresh balm of the gently flowing air, new plush seats that are staggered for better visibility and serenely smooth and soft carpets and aisles for ankles. So much the better to be frightened by a brilliant opera of grandiose proportions.

The new musical director of the company, Enrique Mazzola, specialist in Italian opera, was in top form at the helm, in front of an orchestra quite capable of sounding otherworldly or glorious, as needed, despite the long pause. And a welcome lyrical opera familiar, the great soprano verdi Sondra Radvanovsky – born in Berwyn – got involved as an ambitious wife who takes hold of the prophecy that her husband would become king and pushes him into considerable bloody affairs in hastening matters. . Note to future kings and queens: when it comes to prophecy, think about the source and listen to the details better.

McVicar’s disturbing new production, its 10th at the Lyric, takes place entirely in a Scottish chapel, a dark space that would normally host a devout community, but instead mixes rapture and horror. His resident coven of witches delivers a startling prophecy to Macbeth and Banquo, who are friends, both successful generals in King Duncan’s army: Macbeth will be king, but Banquo will be the father of kings, say the witches.

Almost immediately, these two become suspicious of each other. In the meantime, not a small detail, King Duncan is still alive and well. The bloody events that follow will unfold one by one in the spooky sacred space of McVicar. These superb rivals – bass-baritone Craig Colclough, in his Lyric Opera debut as a stunned Macbeth, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, well-known to lyric audiences, as Macbeth’s now uneasy rival. , Banquo – will complete the great trio, which together with Radvanovksy lead the show in glories of triumph, terror, murder and madness.

The stern and imposing sets, designed by John Macfarlane, include a menacing painted drop that suggests the fate that awaits the gullible protagonists at their end. And the warning signs of Macbeth’s downfall are immediately visible in the strong performances of the top three. Vocal art is top notch everywhere here.

Colclough’s voice is capable of an alarming edge, a mercurial threat his Macbeth can wield with easy fury. But from the start, we also see it, hear it, lose its grip on what was an awe-inspiring and relentless and deeply penetrating characterization. After botching the midnight murder of King Duncan by failing to put together evidence that will finger the minions, then turning Banquo’s murder into a very complicated case, Macbeth is seen as drunk, tyrannical, abusive, and distracted from the first moment. minute of the banquet scene. His increasingly strange behavior was insane to see. Van Horn’s Banquo, on the other hand, provided the deep weight, the gravity of a man of principle who recognizes Macbeth’s real danger as a ruthless rival; Banquo must attempt the almost impossible protection of his son. Chicago audiences know Van Horn as a Ryan Center alumnus. He has become a splendid artist.

Christian Van Horn plays Macbeth’s rival, Banquo.
Ken howard

As for the dark psychological journey of Radvanovsky’s ambitious Lady Macbeth – living with an almost sexual thrill in her taste for fame and power in “Vieni t’affretta”, and even more convincing as she relentlessly falls into insanity – the grotesque nature of its terrible circumstance is tragically apparent in the arc and color of each sentence. It was a performance of an artist in command of her full powers. The sleepwalking scene, “Una macchia è qui tuttora! When she hallucinates that the blood of their victims will not escape from her hands, was bewitching.

Through it all, an exceptional chorus of witches, including children, performed like Verdi’s sinister witches. They added a dark resonance to this evening of grand theater.

In front of an audience that was genuinely hungry, in a newly improved magical space, one could not ask for more.


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