*Macbeth,* 10/12/19

October 14, 2019

Barbara, Katherine, Lizzie, and I saw *Macbeth* at the Met on 10/1219.  I’ve been to the Met probably around 75 times (I’ve been thinking for a while I should do an actual count), but at this show I sat somewhere I’d never sat before. I had bought three tickets for me, Barbara, and Katherine to sit in my typical spot in the Family Circle (aka The Nosebleeds, aka The Upper West Side).  Then Lizzie joined the gang and the only seats left (in my cheapo price range) were somewhat obstructed seats on the side, on that same level.  I had seen *Macbeth* twice before, and had seen this particular production a few years ago, and had heard all of these singers a number of times, so I thought it would be an interesting experience.

 

Here’s a photo from my vantage point:

 

Probably about 1/4 of the stage was obscured.  I was able to lean over the rail at moments when I wanted to see something that was obscured, like at the start of Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene.  The one serious bonus to sitting there was I felt like the orchestra was playing directly into my face, that was an experience.  I would sit there again, but only under these same circumstances: an opera I know pretty well, a production I’ve seen before, singers I’ve heard before.  Thankfully I’ve been going to the Met long enough and often enough, these same circumstances will probably happen again!

 

*Macbeth* is an early Verdi opera, from 1847.  I was surprised to read in the program notes that Shakespeare was not so well known in Italy at the time.  Verdi and his librettists of course went a little free and easy with the adaptation, but they did a fascinating job of staying true to Shakespeare within in the constraints of mid-19th century Italian opera conventions.

 

Baritone Željko Lučić played Macbeth.  I’ve heard him many times and honestly have never warmed up to his voice.  It’s not particularly beautiful or distinctive and his musicianship and acting don’t make up for that.  I’ve often wondered why he gets so much work at the Met - - is there really such a scarcity of Verdi baritones?  But this performance, for me, was his best work to date.  He, more than any of the other singers, gave the sense of doing SHAKESPEARE.  I think a lot of that has to do with the way Verdi wrote it, he did some unusual things in his writing for the character.  There was one serious downside to Lučić’s performance - - he sang seriously flat in his final aria.  I know it’s a long night and a demanding role, but there’s no excuse for singing flat so consistently.  Probably six or seven notes near the top of his range were nearly a half step flat, and he sustained them at that pitch level.  It was unsettling.

 

Soprano Anna Netrebko was the undisputed star of the show, as Lady Macbeth.  Again, Verdi gets a lot of the credit - - Macbeth has a lot of soul-searching ariosos, but Lady Macbeth is given FOUR show-stopping arias.  Netrebko started her career doing what I call Sweet Young Thing roles, the nice girl who sings pretty.  She might die at the end of the show, but she’s a young, romantic heroine.  Netrebko’s voice thickened and darkened a few years ago and she presented her Lady Macbeth to the Met audience in 2014, basically saying, “Clear me a path people, I’m puttin’ on my big girl panties!”

 

She was having a major diva trip all night long, and isn’t that what we’re all living for?  The singing, her presence and command of the stage, her old school deportment and use of gesture - - she was the real deal.  And the high pianissimos in the sleepwalking scene, they were astonishing.  Here she is singing the sleepwalking scene in 2014.  The high D flat at the end is beyond belief.

 

 

She’s amazing, I officially need to hear her every time she sings at the Met (though I’m NOT paying $208 to hear her in the New Year’s Eve Gala this year).

Conductor Marco Armiliato gave a tight performance of the score, not shying away from a coarse sound, when it was called for.  We had luxury casting in two supporting roles: Matthew Polenzani as Macduff and Ildar Abdrazakov as Banquo.  Both sounded spectacular, they added a lot to the show.

This was not just Lizzie's first trip to the Met, it was her first opera EVER.  Katherine said it was a great choice for a first opera: "A story that most of us know, told in an incredible way, with some amazing music and singing to back it up!!"

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