Opera review: Macbeth

Dalibor Jenis delivers a powerful performance in the title role. Picture: Neil Hanna
Dalibor Jenis delivers a powerful performance in the title role. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Edinburgh International Festival: It was the centrepiece opera in the first ever Edinburgh Festival of 1947.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

****

In this 70th Anniversary Festival, Verdi’s Macbeth was duly resurrected in a never-a-dull-moment new production by Emma Dante for Teatro Regio Torino, with actors and acrobats from Sud Costa Occidentale and Teatro Biondo di Palermo.

Witchcraft is everywhere: in the shadowy spectral alter ego haunting Macbeth as he kills Duncan; in the wild pelt coat and freakish hair of Lady Macbeth and the mental persecution she undergoes by a slightly gimmicky mobile dormitory of blooded beds; in the omnipresent darkness, lightened by periodic starbursts of grotesque, viciously ironic humour.

And of course it’s in the witches themselves, a frenzied combination of singers and dancers, whose orgiastic antics and continuous pregnancies – “a deed without a name” – keep the world turning, especially when death is all around.

There’s a hell of a lot going on, some of it questionable, some of it intrusive, but in most cases an energising backdrop to Verdi’s blustery score.

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda’s red raw, adrenalin-charged reading bubbled up from the orchestra pit like an engine room on full speed ahead. On balance, Friday’s opening night cast made it happen. Dalibor Jenis’ Macbeth was a performance of unstinting vocal and dramatic passion, slow-cooked to perfection. Marko Mimica’s short-lived Banquo bore a puritanical benevolence, while Piero Pretti’s radiant singing of one-hit wonder Macduff’s final act aria deservedly brought the house down.

Anna Pirozzi had mixed success as Lady Macbeth, chillingly portrayed, terrifyingly ripe in her top register, but less consistent in the lower voice. Friday’s witches’ chorus opened without much vocal edge, compared to the sizzling delivery of their second batch of prophesies. That aside, I enjoyed the creative expansiveness of a production hell-bent on hitting you from all angles.