State-Opera-Macbeth-photo-by-Tyr-LiangDeparting State Opera South Australia Artistic Director Stuart Maunder brings his acclaimed 2019 Western Australian production of Verdi’s 1847 version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Adelaide, as new Executive Director Mark Taylor takes the throne.

When Stuart Maunder saw Verdi’s Macbeth as a uni student in the late 1970s, he was irritated by the tedious heaving and lugging of sets by the stage crew. Thirty years later, Maunder unveiled a minimalist but seamlessly adaptable set comprised, mostly, of movable floor-to-ceiling pillars designed by Tony-award winning set and Roger Kirk.

The set, which is mainly given its colour by Trudy Dalgleish’s lighting design, serves Maunder’s purpose: efficient transitions which facilitate the Macbeth’s unceasing frog march to hell.

The titular role, played by José Carbó, is magnificent as his consistently rich and resonant baritone rings out his rage and laments, as he is driven to destruction, by his own impulses, the chorus of witches singing in three-part harmony, or his wife, Lady Macbeth, played by Kate Ladner.

Ladner is tasked with a series of challenges: portray one of the most dastardly characters in fiction while also adhering to Verdi’s demand for an “ugly and evil” voice, having spent much of her stage life being beautiful. His Macbeth, as an opera without love, is not replete with hummable pasta advertising jingles, with smooth and lyric bel canto lines: it is torrid, turgid.

Singers are tasked with sounding choked (soffocata), dark, gloomy and masked (voce cupo) and with singing at the top of their lungs. Ladner, whose acting is superb, has more recently become recognised as Verdi specialist, having spent much of her earlier career exploring different terrain across the globe.

While Pelham Andrews is rock-solid as usual as Banquo and Tomas Dalton is a ringing new tenor as the swashbuckling English saviour, Malcolm, it is Paul O’Neill, who reprises his WA role of Macduff, who steals the show with his rousing Ah, la paterna mano.

The female chorus steps out from the shadows in this work, as the witches, and their scenes, and the climactic sword swinging, are choreographed well, but there could have been more thought paid to the movements of the cast and chorus more generally, although the precision lighting may have limited this somewhat. Macbeth will rouse the blood while spilling some too.

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Grote Street, Adelaide
Performance: Thursday 7 September 2023
Season continues to 16 September 2023
Information and Bookings:

Image: Macbeth – photo by Tyr Liang

Review: James Murphy – republished with kind permission of All About Entertainment