A postmodern version of Verdi's Macbeth
The description on the DVD cover calls it a "hard-edged postmodern production of Giuseppe Verdi's haunting masterpiece." I don't guess I knew that about the opera when I ordered it, or I probably would have tried a different production. And, had I done so, I would have seriously missed out on a great show.
I've got to start out first of all by mentioning Marrocu's Lady Macbeth, or, more appropriately, her costume as designed by Marie-Jeanne Lecca. It's, well, an eye opener, to say the least. In fact, while she was on stage, I don't think I blinked much. Let me reveal that...it's revealing.
But Marrocu is, along with being a powerful singer, also a great actress. She starts out on a "box" some 12-15 feet tall, which plays an integral role throughout the production. Below, Hampson is reading a letter, which Lady Macbeth is also reading, apparently from Macbeth. She has her aria where she plans for her ascension to the throne. It is near the end of this where we see she is chained to the box (but she doesn't stay that way for long).
But I'm getting things out of order. The traditional three witches from the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth are actually an entire chorus of two covens of witches (I didn't count them, but it sure seemed like there were more than twenty-six women). They are almost all dressed in red, but in modern dress, no two the same. They seem to represent women from all walks of life. One of them works a small area of dirt (dirt is also a recurring prop throughout the opera). After their opening chorus, Banquo (played by Roberto Scandiuzzi) and Macbeth climb steps up to stage level. Soon they are surrounded by three spirits, while the chorus of witches make their predictions: Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor, and then king of Scotland; Banquo will sire a line of kings.
I won't go over the entire opera; there's just too much to cover. It goes for 139 minutes. There is one part that I wonder if it is their version of the ballet, where the witches have some fun with Macbeth after he faints from his second encounter with them. Lady Macbeth's sleep-walking scene is incredible ("Out, foul spot!"), a bit of dance thrown in. Piave's libretto uses the more famous lines from the play. When Hampson's Macbeth is afraid, he really looks afraid! Macduff (Luis Lima) has a great aria while he is in hiding, and really shines in the fourth act.
Zurich's production is a bit odd in costume , sets, and choreograph, but it adds to, rather than distracts from, the production. It's quite a ride. I may try to find a different, more traditional production to have something to which to compare, but I'm sure I'll be watching this version again.