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Los Angeles Music Center, 09/25/16. Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), opera in 4 acts, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare. Director: Darko Tresnjak.
Sets: Colin McGurk/Darko Tresnjak. Costumes: Suttirat Anne Lalarb.
Lighting: Matthew Richards. Cast: Plácido Domingo (Macbeth);
Ekaterina Semenchuk (Lady Macbeth); Roberto Tagliavini (Banquo);
Arturo Chacón-Cruz (MacDuff); Josh Wheeker (Malcolm). Los Angeles Opera Chorus (Chorus Master: Grant Gershon); Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, James Conlon, conductor.
Plácido Domingo offers his Macbeth to the opera company he directs.
This production of Macbeth will satisfy, even inspire, the most skeptical viewer. Darko Tresnjak (winner of 4 Tony awards and Broadway’s golden boy) is at work here, it’s true, with the help of Colin McGurk, on his own sets, often quite pertinent, often clever, flexible, and accommodating, readily manipulated and maneuvered, gloomy and foreboding, sinister (for the woods and battleground), brilliant (for the castles). One or two missteps: What, for example, are those huge heads mounted on little feet doing here (a re-reading?) which suddenly transport us to the Carnival in Cassel?
Tresnjak has also worked on Suttirat Anne Larlarb’s costumes, which are sometimes aggressively black and ragged (Macbeth or MacDuff), often brightly colored, purply, even glittering (Lady Macbeth, the courtesans and crowds). This involvement has allowed him to demonstrate keen judgment, wisdom, and flair in emphasizing the movement, fluidity, and flow, as well as the excitement, volatility, or passion of the Plot. And then, there are the witches! They’re entrenched everywhere, from one end of the drama to the other–disguised, camouflaged, under tables and thrones, in the nooks and crannies of the set, hanging on the walls, disheveled, messy-haired, rumps in the air, grimacing and unkempt. They are the stakeholders who will use all possible means to fight the battles, the confrontations which lead to the downfall and death of Macbeth. They are the ones who run the show and dispassionately control everything. Fear, terror, horror, judiciously “constructed” from the first moments by a highly-charged, keyed up, electrified James Conlon, who accompanies these ladies all their way through this doomed failure which represents Macbeth’s life.
The stage director’s work was undoubtedly facilitated by that towering icon of the theater, Plácido Domingo, who throws himself whole-heartedly into this new production, which he has discovered with us, since, over the past three or four weeks, he has continued to over-extend himself and tenorize from Peking to Los Angeles, from Seoul (between two performances there) to Hermosillo. Despite the demands of a packed, impossible schedule, his Macbeth is convincing. Here is a weak-willed coward, incapable of standing up to his Lady, who knows him only too well. One must wait, however, first, for the Pietà, rispetto, amore, then, for the Mal per me che m’affidai, to truly recapture the rhythm, the breath control, the expressiveness of an eloquent, luxuriant, opulent Domingo. Alas, stiff and awkward, as if she were petrified, seemingly disengaged when she enters into the plotting, Ekaterina Semenchuk is very disappointing. Chosen by Domingo himself in Valencia, where he sang Macbeth, she is-vocally uncomfortable, with inelegant high notes, frequently pushed too hard, and a weak, inexpressive lower register. Roberto Tagliavini creates a polished and flawless Banquo, while Arturo Chacón-Cruz, is a perfect MacDuff.
The chorus members, beyond reproach, are persuasive and captivating. As for James Conlon, always alert and involved, vigilant and attentive to the slightest inflections of his soloists, from start to finish, he is the royal absolute master of this production.
Translated by Miriam Ellis
Photos : (c) Karen Almond / LA Opera