Review "Macbeth": "Macbeth" kills! Lady Gaines Frames It...Perfectly!

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents

mac program.jpg

In the Ardis Krainik Theatre, 20 N. Wacker
Based on the tragedy written by William Shakespeare
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Performed in Italian in Four Acts
Projected English titles by Francis Rizzo
Conducted by Renato Palumbo
Stage directed by Barbara Gaines
Remaining performances on October 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 30th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Three hours and five minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

macbeth open.jpg

Flying witches, floating apparitions, blazing cauldrons, October arrives with a ghoulish tale of bloodshed for power.  Lyric Opera of Chicago presents MACBETH, an Italian opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi and performed with English titles.  Based on the William Shakespeare tragedy, Verdi’s MACBETH is all about ruling Scotland.  Witches predict Macbeth will be King.  Not a patient woman, Lady Macbeth decides to speed up the prophecy.  She convinces her husband to assassinate the King.  Macbeth kills!  Lady Macbeth frames it!  As the new King and Queen, the ambitious Macbeths decide to slaughter a few more political threats.  Macbeth is haunted by ghosts.  Lady Macbeth drinks to madness. As the bodies stack up, the Macbeths crack up! The Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its season with the classic tale of murderous corruption.  The ambitious Lyric chose to heighten the Shakespearean aspect of the Verdi opera with staging by Chicago Shakes Artistic Director Barbara Gaines.  The results:  MACBETH kills!  Lady Gaines frames it…perfectly!

Gaines stirs the pot… cauldron with ominous essences. She stages the tragedy by blending

macbeth red.jpg

two hallmarks: Chicago Shakespeare’s dramatic intensity with Lyric Opera’s majestic presence. The hometown brew is a concoction boiling over with passionate intrigue.  With Renato Palumbo conducting the orchestration, the opera cooks up a true elixir of love.  Adding to the intoxicating experience, three of the four principles make their Lyric Opera debut.  A seasoned Lyric Opera favorite, Thomas Hampson (Macbeth) commands the stage with defiance and authority.  His coronation celebration is sung with triumph and fear.   Nadja Michael (Lady Macbeth) is stunning!  Plotting murder, getting drunk, washing hands, Michael is mesmerizing.  She sings with a wide range of emotional engagement: the power-hungry seducer, the drinking-to-forget partier, and the despondent victim of her own actions.  Stefan Kocan (Banquo) delivers a poignant aria, ‘Come dal ciel precipita,’ as he foresees his dire strange revelations.   Leonardo Capalbo (Macduff) elicits empathy and thunderous applause for his mournful aria, ‘Ah! La paterna mano.’  The chorus, in large numbers, magnificently lends their voices as witches, soldiers, noble kin, and refugees.  

macbeth white.jpg

Adding to the visual spectacle, James Noone has designed a metal fortress of a set.  The shiny aluminum walls reflect the ambiance with varying colors:  green for witches, red for power, purple for hallucinations.  The set moves, curves, and rotates to conjure up the best backdrop for the action.  The smooth lines of the scenery make the multi-texturing of the costumes stand-out.  Designer Virgil C. Johnson dresses up the witches with layered veiling for a wonderful supernatural gypsy appearance.   The nobility party in vibrant festive finery.  The men look dashingly hot with knee high boots and long tresses (wigmaster Richard Jarvie).  But the wardrobe scene stealer is reserved for a well-dressed Nadja Michael.  Women would kill to look like Lady Macbeth in her exquisite gowns of red, white, black and silver.  Her appearance each time in a new frock was red carpet gawking spectacular!

Thumbnail image for macbeth black.jpg

MACBETH is a tale of what happens when ambition goes horribly wrong.  Lyric Opera’s

MACBETH is a tale of what happens when ambition goes hideously right.  Channeling my inner witch, I predict MACBETH is King of Chicago theatre through October.

Never able to sum up her opinion of a show in just three words, Jen describes MACBETH with “red, white, black, silver.”

October 1st was opening night for MACBETH, as well as, opening night for the 2010/2011

mac party.jpg

Lyric Opera of Chicago season.  It’s a red carpet event that brings out opera enthusiasts and Chicago’s best dressed.  Everyone shows up for the pre-show at 6:15.  Back in the Ardis Krainik reign, the champagne flowed freely.  In these contemporary days, it’s for sale along with sparkling water.  There are complimentary appetizers and dessert bites served pre-curtain and during intermission.  It’s not the free food that attracts an early arrival. It’s the people watching.  The Lyric Opera Ball immediately follows the season opener.  At $500+ a ticket, the black-tie socialites are eye candy for the Cinderella-folk not going to the ball.  Top hats, gloves, furs, the ensembles are Project Runway meets Chicago Social.  It’s a gorgeous

mac party 2.jpg

 array of fashion attempts and triumphs!  Even with all this decadent luxury, my favorite Lyric Opera tradition for opening the season is the singing of the national anthem.  Just before the curtain rises, the 3,600 guests rise to their feet and celebrate America.  Not a baseball cap or beer in sight but the experience is a patriotic win for the home team.  As Jen says, it leads into the first pitch!    


Leave a comment