Opera Review

Macbeth (Marcelo Guzzo), right, and Lady Macbeth (Sandra Lopez) in Opera North’s production of Verdi’s “Macbeth.”

LEBANON, N.H. – “Oh howe are the myghtie ouerthrowen” (Old Testament, 2 Samuel 1:19, Great Bible, 1539) pretty much sums up the 11th century downward spiral found in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Giussepe Verdi’s rich score for his opera of the same title underscores this tragic tale.

Opera North has created a production of Verdi’s opera that is both humanly and musically powerful. Tuesday’s performance (second in a run of four) delivered that drama with heart-wrenching beauty. And much of the singing was gorgeous.

In Shakespeare’s 1606 play, the Scottish general Macbeth receives a prophecy from three witches that he will one day be King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred on by his wife, he kills King Duncan, resulting in a series of events that lead to Macbeth’s doom.

Verdi’s opera, which condenses the tale (and turns the three witches into a women’s chorus) premiered in 1847. Verdi made changes and the new version, which is being used by Opera North, appeared in 1865. (Among other things, it adds a final chorus celebrating Macolm’s accession of the crown, ending on a positive note.)

Opera North’s excellent production, conducted by Louis Burkot and directed by Helena Binder, was so cohesive a statement that appraising the singers individually seems secondary. Still, Marcello Guzzo’s performance as Macbeth was simply stellar. He not only employed his beautiful baritone with macho power, he let vulnerability and fear break through. It was a fully dimensional performance both vocally and theatrically.

Soprano Sandra Lopez certainly delivered the drama of Lady Macbeth, her lust for power and her pathetic downfall. But she lost power vocally in her middle range. Still, her powerful lower notes and her brilliant high notes created a powerful presence.

The other men had amazing voices. Both bass Prosper Makhanya as Banquo and tenor Levi Hamlin as Macduff had great presence vocally and theatrically. Though a bit clumsy on stage, tenor Joseph Sacchi sang beautifully as Malcolm. And there wasn’t a weak link among the remainder of the cast.

Burkot conducted the singers and particularly fine 24-piece orchestra (using a reduction by Tony Burke/Pocket Publications reduction). Their tempos and ebb and flow felt totally natural, and the drama was delivered in spades.

Binder set the action in the historical 11th century of the actual King Macbeth of Scotland. Eloise Petro’s extravagant costumes were period, complemented by Tony Cisek’s abstract staging using mobile vertical panels inspired by northern New England’s stark “stick season.” With John Salutz’ effective lighting – though parts could have been darker – a haunting home for tragedy was created.

Opera North, the Upper Valley’s venerable professional opera company, has created a rich and rewarding production of “Macbeth” worthy of Verdi – and Shakespeare.

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