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…]

Back from hols and quick theatre reviews

I’m back to work at St Mary’s today after a post-Christmas (well, post-Epiphany) week off. I’m writing this at the point just before I go into work, say morning prayer and open up the emails that have come in to me whilst I was away.

It has been a busy week. I managed to fit in a trip to Yorkshire to see family and a wee theatre trip to London.

Here are a few quick theatre reviews of what I saw.

  • Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Saddlers Wells – by some distance the most exciting thing I saw. I’ve come rather late to this one but loved it. (Except the ending which reminded me of Brokeback Mountain – how often gay couples only end up together when they are dead).
    Rating: ★★★★★
  • Ghosts at the Trafalgar Studios – A very good production of this Ibsen play though I was surprised when I got in that I’d already seen a strikingly similar production of the same play at the Citz a while ago. Outstanding question – why did the maid and her father sound as though they came from Govan when they were supposed to be rural Swedes?  Apart from that, all made sense and this was quite gripping.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Not I, Footfalls and Rockaby – the Beckett trilogy at the Royal Court. This was the one I booked in advance and indeed the one that prompted me to book the trip. A rare chance to see Not I, not least because of how difficult it is – the actor hangs upside down on the stage and delivers a monologue “at the speed of thought” whilst the only illumination in the whole theatre is a tiny pencil spotlight on her lips. This was chilling, fascinating theatre that plays with your mind.
    Rating: ★★★★½
  • From Morning to Midnight – a German expressionist piece at the Royal National Theatre. Brilliantly done. But should it have been done? I was far from sure. Reminded me of that terrible production of the Seven Deadly Sins that Scottish Opera did a few years ago.
    Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • Mojo – a relatively new play at the Harold Pinter Theatre. This one didn’t work for me at all – far too shouty. Odd that the people in the stalls seemed to think it was hilarious and those in the Royal Circle didn’t. How does this happen?
    Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Not a bad trawl. Add to that three big sung services in musical churches in London, a hour or so looking at favourite things in the National Gallery, some good food and good company and you’ve got a flavour of what I was up to.

I was in London for three nights, by the way and managed to come back without blisters.