Opera Review – Macbeth – Scottish Opera

Here’s my review of Scottish Opera’s latest production, as posted at Opera Britannia. The exclamation marks are obviously not my own and have been added by an editor.
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Scottish Opera’s revival of Dominic Hill’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth is something of a mixed bag that is saved by several confident performances, most notably that of Elisabeth Meister as Lady Macbeth. Before we think about the singing though, we must discuss the curtain. By understanding the curtain, we can understand the whole of this production!

Scottish Opera is currently out of its usual Theatre Royal base in Glasgow whilst that theatre has major improvement work undertaken. This show took us across the river to the Citizens Theatre where simply due to the relative sizes of the buildings, any show is going to seem much smaller and more intimate. Now, the Theatre Royal has pretentions to the grand whilst the Citzens wears its faded grandeur with pride. And walking into the theatre we find that someone has unravelled a piece of string across the stage and hung a grime-laden piece of cloth inelegantly across the stage. The cloth itself looks as though it has been dragged around every venue in Scotland. It looks so grubby and untidy that one wonders whether someone has dragged it through Birnam Wood itself. The string sags in the middle and the curtain droops. It is a metaphor for what we will see unfold from a company that one fears has itself got a case of the droop.

For this production has indeed been all around Scotland and on the first night of this revival it was already feeling a little tired. It transpires that the production is a revival not of a main stage show but of a much pared down Macbeth, which was part of Scottish Opera’s commitment to tour opera to small and often unlikely venues in 2005 with a small band of seven singers and only a piano for accompaniment. In this revival the piano is gone, to be replaced by a small orchestra of just 18 players (a larger band is due in Edinburgh) making it difficult to decide whether we are seeing something that is essentially a big show cut to the bone or an already emasculated production being beefed up.

The curtain barely covers the set which itself only covers the lower half of the stage, the back walls clearly visible beyond. The set itself, such as it is, doesn’t do much to distinguish one place from another. It is a grungy, dirty interior – somewhere in a war zone. This is to be a production of Verdi’s version of the Scottish Play in Scotland by Scottish Opera that makes no reference to Scotland.

So…….on to the singing. [Read more…]