Verdi: Macbeth; plus ‘From Novosibirk to Paris’ a film by Denis Sneguirev

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LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: Macbeth; plus ‘From Novosibirk to Paris’ a film by Denis Sneguirev
PERFORMER: Dimitris Tiliakos, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Violeta Urmana, Letitia Singleton, Stefano Secco et al; Paris Opera Orchestra, Chorus & Children’s Chorus; Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine/Teodor Currentzis; dir. Dmitri Tcherniakov
CATALOGUE NO: BAC054 (NTSC system; 5.1 dolby digital; 16:9 picture format)


Macbeth, long pigeonholed as an inconsistent early opera with ‘great bits’, some supplied in Verdi’s revision years later, has in recent decades rocketed in both popularity and critical esteem. It’s also regularly in the sights of modern opera directors doing battle with its fierce contrasts of musical style and dramatic tone.

The latest Macbeth on DVD is the work of the Russian Dmitri Tcherniakov (see also p85), currently a big name in European opera, and in June an ENO debutant with Simon Boccanegra. In the documentary following this shared production from Siberia (where it was created in 2008) to Paris (where in 2009 it was restaged and filmed), he communicates appealing intelligence and determination to treat the material honestly; yet, his Macbeth proves a jumble of brilliant insights, tiresome tics and unmusical bungles.

The royal trappings get stripped away (we’re introduced to the Macbeths’ modern suburban house by Google Earth-type projections), likewise everything supernatural (the witches are ordinary folk in public housing). Personal relationships are illuminatingly handled in spite of Tcherniakov’s aversion to monologues, and excessive involvement of extras; the handling of larger political issues involving royalty and nobility are a mess. Home viewing produces, I guess, a more accessible experience than the audience had in Paris’s acoustically unfriendly Bastille auditorium. In film close-up, for instance, the wonderfully detailed acting of baritone Dimitris Tiliakos, a darkly handsome hero-villain, stands out, compensating for his loose vocal patches.


The other principals benefit similarly: the admirably bold though sometimes squally Lady (Violeta Urmana), craggy-voiced Banquo (Ferrucio Furlanetto) and incisive Macduff (Stefano Secco). The young conductor Teodor Currentzis, Greek but Novosibirsk-based, achieves disciplined ensemble, though his slow tempos can be vocally uncomfortable. A maddening Macbeth, in sum, if also finally a rewarding one. Max Loppert