Opera Reviews
12 April 2021
Untitled Document

An exceptional rerun of Macbeth

by Moore Parker
Verdi: Macbeth
Vienna State Opera
18 June 2016

This revival of last Autumn’s new Macbeth (reviewed here) definitely excels beyond its first run, most likely due to the introduction of two major changes to the original; the title baritone and the conductor.

Fine as the cast is, it was conductor Simone Young who earned the audience’s highest accolades - which included the trampling of feet - for her finely-detailed, compelling performance. The reading was illuminated by musical reminders of the work’s position in Verdi’s oeuvre in terms of style and orchestration, and the grand sweep was all there, as was a close collaboration with the soloists despite evident moments when the pit was pressing forward in tempi against the initial line onstage. Indeed, the final curtain dropped around ten minutes ahead of schedule.

This was Andrzej Dobber’s first Macbeth in the house. Not just in looks, but in stage demeanour and vocal authority, this Polish baritone somewhat resembles the great Canadian tenor Jon Vickers - echoing his astute attention to words, biting articulation and wide range of dynamics. Throughout, he maintained superlative accuracy in intonation and timing which well complimented, if not indeed inspired, his colleagues.   

The remaining participants returned from the premier cast. However this time round Tatiana Serjan eclipsed her last series here, singing with even greater accuracy and finesse (in addition to her familiar intensity) to create a truly credible and multi-facetted figure. The contrast and progression from “Vieni! d’affretta” to “La luce langue” (which is sung languishing with Macbeth on their bed) through her grand and stunningly precise Brindisi (dramatically augmented by the tempo reduction and deliberation in the Da capo section) to the great Sleepwalking scene (with a perfect and finely-spun top D-flat) in a rich and unflagging tone is quite an accomplishment. The slight caution in attacking certain top notes in full thrust is a minor blemish, but a tactic which has undoubtedly kept her instrument pliable and healthy (as with the legendary Lili Lehmann), despite such testing repertoire. 

This evening found Ferruccio Furlanetto in particularly fresh voice, steady and cavernous in tone and, as always, intense and sympathetic in character. His “Oihmè” preceding “Fuggi, mio figlio!” (following his great aria) sent shivers down my spine.

Jorge de León (Macduff) sang and acted with verve and passion as in the first series, but his tired vibrato can at times not only tarnish the line, but lend a sense of vocal unease.

Ensemble member, Jinxu Xiahou, more than held his own next to his Spanish tenor colleague with a vibrant tone and stalwart presence as Malcolm.

The so vital choral contribution was superb on this evening - occasionally (like the soloists) suffering tempo issues between stage and pit, but uniting into an absolutely breathtaking rendering of “Patria oppressa! il dolce nome” in Act 4.  

Oddly, Christian Räth’s production seemed more fluid this time round, despite the lengthy scene-changes - quite possibly thanks to the overall intensity both on stage and in the pit on this exceptional evening.

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
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