Plácido Domingo performs in Verdi’s Macbeth

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WORKS: Macbeth
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, Joshua Guerrero; LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra/James Conlon; dir. Darko Tresnjak (Los Angeles, 2016)
CATALOGUE NO: 88985403579


Macbeth is the first of Verdi’s great Shakespearean operas. Much earlier than the others, it doesn’t compare with the original play in complexity or depth, but is still a major departure for the composer – especially the revised version, which is what is performed here.

The Los Angeles Opera is not one of the most celebrated opera houses, but Plácido Domingo has long been associated with it, and presumably can choose what he sings. Macbeth is the latest of what are now his quite numerous excursions into the Verdi baritone repertoire, which he has been cultivating for the last eight years. For a singer in his mid-seventies his voice is still in astoundingly good shape – it doesn’t sound old, and still has flexibility and power. But it is still the voice of a tenor, albeit one with a limited range: there are none of the darker resonances of the true baritone, and since he now looks old, the discrepancy is all the more disconcerting.

He is not helped by the staging, which is virtually non-existent: robes are heavy and elaborate, but there are almost no props and so no atmosphere, and the limited range of Domingo’s gestures is cruelly exposed. The Lady, as Verdi called her, is Ekaterina Semenchuk, but given what the composer wanted from the role, she sings far too beautifully and has hardly more character than her stage husband. The Witches are a jolly crew, and the Banquo of Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is superb, the star of the show. James Conlon’s conducting is vigorous and idiomatic, as one would expect. But as with Domingo’s other ventures into baritone territory, it must be considered a respectable failure. 


Michael Tanner