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11 November 2016

Rave MACBETH Reviews

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Macbeth was a huge hit with reviewers and audience alike.

Friday night’s performance surpassed most of the company’s other recent productions in terms of singing, acting, scenery, lighting, costuming and every other element of staging that goes into a professional operatic performance. It was a riveting accomplishment of the highest caliber. more

The Advocate – Dean Shapiro

“Ere the Bat hath Flown His Cloister’d Flight”
by Brian Morgan, Opera Critic (Originally Published on Facebook)
The New Orleans Opera Association is presenting Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth,” après William Shakespeare. A better opera in the wake of the recent, bitter Presidential Election could hardly have been chosen, what with its tale of witches, regicide, and ambition gone amok. While this Dress Rehearsal was taking place, riots were occurring in the nation’s streets, including at historic Lee Circle here in New Orleans.
A better opera in the wake of the recent, bitter Presidential Election could hardly have been chosen, what with its tale of witches, regicide, and ambition gone amok.
The Association has done very well by the 1847 masterpiece in the current production, and features Michael Chioldi (Macbeth), Brenda Harris (Lady Macbeth), Derek Taylor (Macduff), and Burak Bilgili (Banquo), with Robert Lyall conducting the production by Christopher Mattaliano. Many aspects of the staging were excellent: It was dark and suitably macabre, with projections creating a magnificent interior of the fatal pair’s Scottish castle.

This writer first became acquainted with the voice of Miss Harris via her delightful recordings

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Brenda Harris as Lady Macbeth

of Haydn’s “La cantarina” (with Jon Garrison and D’Anna Fortunato, 1994) and “The Creation” (with Carl Halvorson and John Cheek, published in 1998) on Newport Classic. She also sang the name part in Handel’s “Agrippina,” in 2002, at the New York City Opera. Her voice on those recordings was a lovely, light lyric soprano, so it was remarkable to finally hear her in the theatre as the formidable Lady Macbeth. It is incontestably one of the most challenging roles in the repertoire, and this reviewer has never heard the part sung so well. It is a sterling, big voice, replete with excellent fiorature and ideal trills. One never heard a strained note. Where many sopranos helplessly shriek through this music, Miss Harris sailed confidently through all difficulties. She puts one in mind of the late Elizabeth Connell, who memorably sang Ortrud to the Elsa of Karan Armstrong, at the Bayreuth Festival.

What was missing, however, was the demonic aspect of the character. Verdi actually asked for the voice of a “she-devil.” It is hardly surprising that the shadow of Maria Callas is still cast over this opera, even though she sang it in only one production, at La Scala, in 1952. Her biographer, Michael Scott, in fact said this was the character most like the singer herself! In 1980, this reviewer saw Marisa Galvany here in this same theatre, in the same role. Her voice was throttled, choked, and harsh, but as an actress she was frightening, electrifying. Shakespeare places these words in the Lady’s mouth: “I have given suck, and know/How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:/I would, while it was smiling in my face,/Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,/And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn/As you have done to this.” In truth, a “vicious woman.”
Burak Bilgili as Banquo

Burak Bilgili as Banquo

Chioldi gave a full-out, tortured characterization of the name part, and the tenors, Taylor and Tyler Smith (Malcolm) were both very fine, and Bilgili was superb. Attending Lady Macbeth in her Sleepwalking Scene were Betsy Uschkrat and Horace English, and both were quite excellent.

The chorus and orchestra were a wonder, and Mr. Mattaliano did not encourage the former into overacting, which sometimes can happen with other directors. Maestro Lyall’s conducting was thrilling.