Verdi's Macbeth

Music, Classical and opera
4 out of 5 stars
Helena Dix and Simon Meadows in Macbeth
Photograph: Robin Halls Helena Dix and Simon Meadows in Macbeth

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Murder, intrigue, betrayal, witches and a forest on the move - all as imagined by Verdi

There are few of Shakespeare's plays as dramatic as Macbeth. Murder, betrayal, infanticide, witches, a forest on the move - it's the full package. Giuseppe Verdi made it even more dramatic by turning the play into an opera that has just as much bloody murder as the source material but adds a dash of vengeance and religiosity. And a heap more witches, because three is definitely not enough.

Melbourne Opera's production is directed by Academy Award-winning director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy), who has set it in its original 11th-century Scotland. "More often than not, it is updated to the 20th century, often Wold War II. I think that by setting it in a world of stark castles, thrilling sword fights and ghostly encounters on eerie parapets, we will heighten the impact of the story,” says Beresford. 

Gregory Carroll's set and costume design and Rob Sowinski's moody lighting definitely set the scene in drafty castles and dark alleyways full of even darker secrets. This production does not scrimp on gore, with bloody daggers, blood-soaked sheets and Lady Macbeth's famed bloodstained hands visible from the back row of Her Majesty's Theatre. 

Baritone Simon Meadows is fantastic as Macbeth, vacillating from arrogance to ambition to terror to doubt and back again as he soars through the vocals. 

But just as in Shakespeare's original, it's Lady Macbeth who steals the show. Helena Dix is jaw-dropping as Lady Macbeth, spitting her lines with palpable venom as she pushes her hapless husband on a path towards glory – and death. She's a force of nature, her powerful soprano freezing the blood and catching fire all at once. And in that scene, she's tremendous, scrubbing at her imaginary bloodstains with such impassioned madness it seemed like she was going to lose a finger. 

Adrian Tamburini brings a frightened pathos to the role of Banquo, making as much of an impression as a spotlit ghost as he does sacrificing himself for his young son. And the Melbourne Opera Chorus shine as everything from soldiers to downtrodden peasants to those fabulous witches.

If you love Shakespeare, opera, theatre or just a whole lot of barefoot witches dancing around a smoking, glowing cauldron, double, double toil and trouble await at Her Majesty's Theatre – and watch out for those walking trees.

But if you can't make it to the opera in person, you can still enjoy the show from the comfort of your own couch. It will be livestreamed in 8k 3D virtual reality on Wednesday, May 26.


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