Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Serjan and Salsi, downstage, in Vick's staging of Macbeth in Florence
© Gianluca Moggi/NEWSPRESSPHOTO 2013
In vocal terms, the performance of Macbeth presented on June 19 by the Maggio Musicale at the Teatro della Pergola (and dedicated to the memory of Bruno Bartoletti, who died here in Florence the week before) was genuinely impressive, partly because the acoustics of this house — where Verdi's opera had its premiere in 1847 — are ideal for this repertoire. The words, backed up with solid tone, resonated around the auditorium to stunning effect; in the pit, James Conlon offered superb support and enabled the original version of the score (rarely performed in its entirety today) to emerge in all its raw-textured potency.
In this intimate acoustic, Tatiana Serjan's Lady Macbeth made an even stronger impact than in the recent production at La Scala, even though her Russian accent sounded more pronounced on this occasion, as did the presence of relatively base metals in her timbre (not necessarily a handicap for this character). Her acting gained in freedom and daring in the present-day costumes designed (as were the sets) by Stuart Nunn. Luca Salsi transmitted to a rare degree the sheer physical energy and erotic drive that lies behind Macbeth's lust for power, his voice delighting in its youthful vigor and dealing almost ironically with introspective passages, as if Macbeth's inner torment were simply a formal concession to conventional morality. A similarly blatant approach was adopted by the other singers. Marco Spotti's Banco and Saimir Pirgu's Macduff were bluffly direct, rather than moving in expression, and Antonio Corianò's Malcolm dominated ensembles with his ringing top.
Director Graham Vick seems obsessed with the moral and physical degradation of powerful men. His Wotan in Die Walküre,seen in Palermo in February, was a semi-alcoholic. Here, Macbeth consoled himself with whisky and crack, spending much of his time sprawling on a double bed in an apparent state of mental confusion (only to stand up and sing with perfect lucidity when the score required it). The director proved masterful in delivering a series of carefully calculated shocks to the audience (including the gory head of the murdered Duncan in full view and a parodic scene, choreographed by Ron Howell, portraying the witches as heroin-addicted prostitutes), yet in so doing he sacrificed the coherence and cohesion of Verdi and Piave's dramatic scheme, with the result that detachment quickly followed once the shock-effect had passed. Not only did the action take place in a Scotland distorted out of reality by the cynicism of the director; Macbeth himself (whose regal status had become a mere metaphor) seemed incapable of any spiritual awareness. The work thus presented ceases, in fact, to be a tragedy, in the Aristotelian sense of the term, because the audience is deprived of both terror (the director downplayed the horror felt by Macbeth before and after the murder of Duncan) and pity (the sleepwalking scene was turned into a coldly clinical study of mental derangement). The performance, however, generated much excitement, and the audience responded noisily when the curtain fell.
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