It seems a shame that this production of Macbeth should only warrant three performances. A lot of work has gone into this opera and many hours of rehearsal and it paid off at the Opera House on Friday night.
Verdi wrote especially well for choruses and certainly the men and women of NI Opera did him proud. It was the concept that caused a great deal of conversation at the interval and in the bar after the show.
Updated to 1980 and set in a time of civic disruption and waring between would-be kings of Scotland, it was at times difficult to follow. Another case of needing to read the programme before curtain up in order to understand exactly what’s going on. Most people know the outline story of Macbeth, the Shakespeare version, but this was Verdi’s version and Oliver Mears vision and direction and not everyone liked it.
The set is one large room, there’s plenty of blood and gore and instead of three witches we have three groups of young women as the witches, a brilliant idea when it comes to a large company of singers, but a word about sitting around with our knees up ladies, not exactly modest! There is a disturbing scene when the witches enter with plastic bags full of naked dolls. They proceed to cut them from the bags, pull off the limbs and heads and then dump the lot in the steaming cauldron. Uncomfortable viewing but leaves you in no doubt that the witches were indeed very evil.
The Ulster Orchestra are their usual excellent selves and Nicholas Chalmers manages to conduct not only the orchestra but also the singers, especially in the more intricate passages.
Unfortunately on Friday there were big problems during the second act; a dramatic scene with a beam of light coming through a door paving the way for a number of Banquo’s ghosts, was completely spoiled when a technical problem caused the lighting plan to go haywire and we had full stage lights going on and off and a sequence of coloured lights flashing round the windows. The curse of Macbeth struck well and truly!
NI OPERA production of
Grand Opera House
21- 23rd February 2014
Check all Anne Hailes Belfast Times reviews here.