Met Opera in HD: Verdi’s opera ‘Macbeth’ screens in Breckenridge |

Met Opera in HD: Verdi’s opera ‘Macbeth’ screens in Breckenridge

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily

The Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast at the Breckenridge Colorado Mountain College on Saturday, Oct. 11, will be the current production of Verdi's "Macbeth," based on Shakespeare's tragic 1597 stage play from a story in Hollenhead's "History of England and Scotland."

The premier performance of Verdi's opera was in Florence in 1847, during a tumultuous time in Europe, commemorated in the opera with the final scene in which Scottish refugees sing a chorus of their oppressed homeland.

The current Met production is relocated to a 20th century civil war setting in Scotland, when Macbeth, sung by baritone Zeljko Lucic, and Banquo, sung by Rene Pape, are serving as generals. The opera opens when Macbeth and Banquo are informed by witches (in this production portrayed as a chorus of "frumpily dancing, cardigan-clad bag ladies") that Macbeth would become the next king of Scotland. Lady Macbeth picked up on this vision, and as the tragedy unfolds, in a following scene, convinces Macbeth to kill the current king, Duncan, who happened to be visiting.

The role of Lady Macbeth is acted and sung by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, whose performance has been described as "alluring charisma and vocal fireworks." In this initial scene, and in the later banquet scene, her work is "pure fire and it is hard to take your eyes off her when she is onstage."

In fact, she dominated most scenes with Macbeth, who often appears as a frail old man who never seems to dominate. The singer Lucic, enacting Macbeth, has been described as often almost "looking like a puppet, being commanded by his owner."

In the blind drive for power at all costs, as part of the original Shakespeare play, this opera also ends in tragedy. Macbeth, suspecting that Banquo might be plotting to become king, has him assassinated. Lady Macbeth, in singing a final aria while sleepwalking, dies after accepting the horrors of what she and her husband have done. Macbeth himself, at the end, is killed in a final battle, with a final chorus singing in celebration of their final victory.

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Under the baton of Fabrio Luisi, the orchestra is outstanding throughout, punctuated by occasional moments of comic relief (Verdi wanted to keep this opera from becoming too sad) in the form of oom-pah-pah orchestral accompaniments.

The singing, both in vocal performances and in the harmonic depths reached during choral renditions, is superb throughout. The background staging is often minimal but is at times accentuated by a variety of lighting effects to brighten up what can seem to be a grim atmosphere.

In considering how an event in history, either in fiction or in real life, is portrayed in a stage production, much can be learned from the experience. However, when a stage play in turn becomes an opera production, deeper levels of meaning can be reached with penetrating melodies, bringing back recollections of past events that might result in transformation. This is the experience one might have in attending this Verdi opera rendition of a classic Shakespearean play.

If you go

What: Verdi’s “Macbeth,” part of the 2014-15 “Met Opera: Live in HD” broadcast season

Where: The Finkel Auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge campus, 107 Denison Placer Ave., Breckenridge

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11; the National Repertory Orchestra and the Lake Dillon Theater Company’s “Opera Prologue and Epilogue” series begins at 10:30 a.m.

Cost: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Met Members and $10 for students and children

More information: Light snacks and beverages will be provided at intermission, donation requested. For ticket information and purchase, call the National Repertory Orchestra Office at (970) 453-5825. Ticket purchase may also be made online by visiting the NRO website at