LONDON: Macbeth
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In Review > International


Royal Opera House

In Review Macbeth hdl 618
Željko Lučić and Anna Netrebko in Macbeth in London
© ROH/Bill Cooper

ANNA NETREBKO had been an infrequent visitor to the Royal Opera House in recent years, save for Mimì in a 2015 revival of La Bohème. The Russian soprano otherwise canceled not one but two planned role debuts at Covent Garden in succession—Marguerite in Faust (2014) and Norma (2016). Eighteen months after her widely publicized Normacancelation, it seems that all is forgiven: Netrebko returned to Covent Garden on March 25 for her first local performances of Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and achieved a genuine success. 

Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 Macbeth staging, designed by Anthony Ward, has never been much liked, but as with several other unappealing Royal Opera productions it has survived in repertory because the company can cast revivals with artists that London audiences are keen to see and hear. On this occasion, Netrebko was unquestionably the major draw, and she brought considerable virtues to the assignment. Her substantial, smoky instrument, with its darkly-colored lower register, suited the character perfectly. She remained unfazed by the trickiest notes in Verdi’s score, even though her coloratura was efficient rather than brilliant. In a revival of a production in which dramatic standards are not much more than adequate, Netrebko passed muster.

Royal Opera House regular Željko Lučić was solid and reliable as her husband. As before in this production, he was allowed to sing the solo finale Verdi wrote for the original staging in 1847 and then replaced with a general hymn of victory created for the premiere of his 1865 revision for Paris. Here, rather pointlessly, we got both, so that the opera ended twice.

Macduff was sung by Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov—Netrebko’s husband. His strikingly individual timbre and dynamic air definitely counted among the show’s stronger elements; Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s noble if slightly gritty Banquo was likewise a positive contribution. Among smaller roles, South Korean tenor Konu Kim made his mark as Malcolm. 

But with its general ugliness and clumsy stagecraft—Banquo’s assassination and posthumous reappearance at the Macbeths’ subsequent festivities were both woefully ineffective—Lloyd’s production remains, as before, weak and unfocused.

Drawing the musical threads together, at least, was conductor Antonio Pappano, who with his keen understanding of tempo and color once again demonstrated his mettle as a Verdi conductor. The choral and orchestral forces responded to him with alacrity. His shaping of the chorus of Scottish exiles was a high point.  —George Hall 

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