I saw *Lady M,* presented by Heartbeat Opera, on 5/14/20. I had seen a performance of *The Mother Of Us All* at the Met Museum in February, starring Felicia Moore as Susan B. Anthony. I’d never heard Moore before and was impressed by her, I thought she was a promising young singer and I wanted to hear more of her. I Googled her and saw that she was playing Lady Macbeth in Heartbeat Opera’s production of *Lady M,* billed as “a fantastic on Verdi’s Macbeth.”
I went to the Heartbeat website every week or so, waiting for an announcement of when I could buy a ticket. Then CoViD-19 took over and I assumed this show would vanish, like every other performance. But no, they decided to move the show online. The new format was a one-hour “virtual soirée” (“You had me at ‘soirée’”), held on Zoom for $20. Why the hell not, I bought a ticket.
All 18 performances were sold out, and they've added another 14. As Richard said, “There’s a big hunger for this kind of thing, they’re the only game in town.”
The evening started with introductions by the producers of the show. The opening line of the play is by one of the witches: "When shall we three meet again?" They see that as a central question of the arts community today! When are we going to be able to get together and share in the glory and restorative thrill of a live performance?
I think there were about 16 households logged in, some with one person, some with a few. They went around the “room,” muting and unmuting us as needed, and asked us to say where we were (the person farthest away was in California) and what was the last live performance we attended in person. A lot of people had seen *Agrippina* at the Met, and that was the last live thing I had seen, but I thought it was more amusing to mention a remarkable thing I HADN’T seen - - I was supposed to be in Barcelona at the end of March seeing *Lohengrin.*
Next they showed a behind-the-scenes video about the development of the show. They had started rehearsals for an in-person 90-minute performance and decided to retool the show to be a one-hour online production.
The first performance was by Moore as Lady Macbeth, singing her entrance aria. Her singing was live and the piano part was prerecorded. She sounded spectacular, fearless, secure, she’s got a real voice.
The next performance was by one of the three “weird sisters” (the witches), lipsynching live to a recording of the three women singing the witches’ opening chorus. Lots of dancing, and very imaginative use of the “camera” (which was probably a smart phone). My favorite moment had her bringing her hand up to the phone, blocking it, then opening it so we were looking at her mouth through the tunnel of her fist. Fascinating.
The last segment was a fully produced short film/music video of Moore performing Lady M’s sleepwalking scene. Beautiful filmmaking, a wonderful use of layers in the images. The music director did a cool arrangement of the score, using guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bass clarinet, violin, and piano. It was spooky and cool. Again, Moore was extraordinary. As a longtime opera queen, I was looking out for the high D-flat at the end, and it was supreme.
We broke out into two discussion groups. My group included the two producers and Moore. They hope that they’ll be able to do a full in-person production this fall, that was the goal all along. But for me, this didn’t feel like a substitute for a live performance, it felt like a separate medium, a new and exciting art form. I understand that they want to do live in-person performances, that’s what we all think of an opera company as doing, but I would love to see more of this kind of thing even after the crisis ends. Assuming the crisis ends…
Here's a wonderful interview with director Ethan Heard, talking about the whole *Lady M* experience: