Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Verdi - Macbeth

Giuseppe Verdi - Macbeth

Teatro Regio di Parma, 2006

Bruno Bartoletti, Liliana Cavani, Leo Nucci, Enrico Iori, Sylvie Valayre, Tiziana Tramonti, Roberto Iuliano, Nicola Pascoli, Enrico Turco, Davide Ronzoni, Ricardo di Stefano, Noris Norgogelli

C-Major, Tutto Verdi - DVD

There are quite a few versions of Verdi's Macbeth now available on DVD and BD, some of them using the composer's original 1847 version of the score, others working from the 1865 revision, some of them combining the best elements of both.  Using the full 1865 version written for Paris, complete with ballet sequences, this recording of Macbeth from the Teatro Regio di Parma in 2006 is however simply one of the best.  It's probably also one of the most straightforward in terms of a traditional period staging, but that doesn't mean that it's in any way lacking a strong meaningful visual sensibility, and there are even one or two curious conceptual elements to consider here as well.

Judging by the overhead air raid sirens and WWII searchlights that one can see during the opening credits and by the dress of the chorus sitting to the side like an on-stage audience, Liliana Cavani's production gives the impression of it being an audience from the 1940s watching a performance of Shakespeare's play in London during the war.  Apart from the obvious war parallel, it's unclear what exactly the purpose of this is since it really has little impact on the actual main performance of the work itself, which is traditionally Shakespearean in look and intent.  Whatever the intentions are, it remains nonetheless an impressive account, full of drive, each scene perfectly attuned to the dramatic content and to the precise tone that Verdi also sets for the work.

The strength of the work as a whole becomes evident in the final fourth Act, which can only have the necessary impact if everything leading up to it has been up to the mark.  'Patria opressa!' is delivered emphatically by the chorus, MacDuff's presence lending an air of tragic defiance to the horrors that Macbeth has laid upon the land.  That's followed with a chilling Lady Macbeth sleepwalking scene and then an agonised Macbeth, slumped on the throne, alone in a darkened room, defiantly gripping a sceptre, wanting to believe in the weird sisters' prophesy that his position is secure despite the evidence to the contrary - 'Perfidi! All' anglo contro me v'unite!'.  Only the fight scene leading to Macbeth's being bundled off the stage in his death scene is unconvincingly staged, but without the 'Mal per me' aria in the revised version of Macbeth, the impact here is indeed lessened.

Unusually for a performance of the 1865 version, this production even includes Verdi's added ballet music, with a full 10-minute sequence opening Act III's reappearance of the weird sisters.  Like most ballet inserts they do hold back the dramatic flow to a large extent - which is why they are consequently often cut - and there's nothing particularly imaginative about the choreography here, but it's interesting to see an attempt made to integrate it into the work.  The quality of the playing and the performances enhance the production here even further.  It's a stirring, nuanced account on every level - a little overly controlled and measured perhaps by conductor Bruno Bartoletti, but the murderous intent of the work is handled with sensitivity and consequently it's powerful without ever being bombastic.

The singing is also everything you would expect from a production this committed to the intent of the work, with Leo Nucci giving a marvellous, intense and deeply involved performance that is full of feeling for the character of Macbeth.  'La luce langue' is usually a good indication for the measure of Lady Macbeth and Sylvie Valayre proves to be not only capable of meeting its demands, but she remains strong and consistent throughout the rest of the opera - as indicated above, for example, in the Act IV sleepwalking scene.  There are no weak elements either elsewhere in this Macbeth's Banquo (Enrico Iori) or its MacDuff (Roberto Iuliano).

This 2006 production of Macbeth from the Teatro Regio di Parma is released on DVD and Blu-ray by C-Major as part of their Tutto Verdi collection.  Viewed on DVD, the production looks and sounds well, with a widescreen transfer and audio tracks in PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1, the surround mix in particular packing a punch.  The extra features contain the usual 10 minute Introduction, which places the work in the context of Verdi's career and gives an illustrated synopsis of the plot and characters.  The DVD is region-free, with subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.