Following the sell-out success of Wagner’s epic Das Rheingold at The Regent in February, Melbourne Opera will stage an inspired new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s thrilling Macbeth at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 18 May 2021.
In Macbeth, the first of three Shakespeare plays that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage, the composer’s musical artistry in creating a mysterious and frightening atmosphere is elevated by librettist Francesco Maria Piave and poet Andrei Maffei.
After the triumph of the Teatro della Pergola premiere in 1847, then revised for Paris in 1865, the four-act opera was staged throughout Italy and eventually, New York and the world.
Macbeth is a famous vehicle for a star soprano and baritone, packed with wonderful arias, choruses and magnificent ensembles and was one of Verdi’s greatest early successes. It’s a masterpiece to which he returned later in life and it is his superb later revised version which Melbourne Opera will present.
Directed by legendary film and opera director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Ladies in Black), Macbeth stars gifted baritone Simon Meadows as Macbeth, who gave the performance of the production as the slimy Alberich in Das Rheingold, and international opera sensation Helena Dix as Lady Macbeth, who previously shone in Norma, Roberto Devereux and Lohengrin for Melbourne Opera.
After beginning her opera journey in Melbourne, Helena’s career has taken her to live in the UK for many years, performing starring roles across London and Europe, and more recently at The Met in New York. She recovered from a tumultuous battle with COVID-19 in 2020, her opera training instrumental in her recovery.
Between his Academy Award winning films, Bruce Beresford has been directing operas since 1986, and directed Otello for Melbourne Opera in 2018 to widespread acclaim.
“To better capture the drama, I am setting Macbeth in 11th century Scotland, as it was originally intended,” say director Bruce Beresford. “None of the productions I’ve seen have done this: more often than not, it is updated to the 20th century, often WW2.”
“I think that by setting it in a world of stark castles, thrilling sword fights and ghostly encounters on eerie parapets, we will heighten the impact of the story. Assassins, murder, subterfuge, madness…and the music is just phenomenal. Macbeth is a brilliant opera,” he adds.
Beresford’s life-long passion for opera was ignited when a school friend convinced him to attend an opera at Sydney’s old Elizabethan Theatre, because his attractive cousin might be there, on whom Beresford had a crush.
“I went, only to see the glorious cousin again, but I was blown away by how much the opera affected me. It was Rigoletto, and I couldn’t tear my eyes off it. I became fanatical about opera from that point on, as an audience member, and eventually, as a director,” says Beresford.
Rounding out the cast of Macbeth are Melbourne Opera favourites Samuel Sakker (former Royal Opera House company principal), Adrian Tamburini (Australian Opera Award winner), Eddie Muliaumaseali’i (Wotan in Das Rheingold), Robert Macfarlane (Hamlet at Adelaide Festival, many roles for Opera Australia), Alex Pokryshevsky (Opera Australia’s Turandot), Richard Divall Emerging Artists Michael Dimovski, Eleanor Greenwood, Darcy Carroll and Jane Magão as well as the 60-strong Melbourne Opera Chorus. Greg Hocking and Raymond Lawrence will conduct the Melbourne Opera Orchestra.
Since the pandemic, live streaming of theatre and opera is used regularly by prestigious companies like the Berlin Philharmonic/Deutsche Grammophon and The Met to reach audiences when physical attendance is not possible, whether due to mobility, safety, or distance.
In an Australian theatre first, the final performance of Macbeth on Wednesday 26 May will be broadcast via LIVE VR to anyone with Virtual Reality headsets, giving them the closest possible experience to seeing the production in person.
Director: Bruce Beresford Conductors: Greg Hocking & Raymond Lawrence Starring: Helena Dix, Simon Meadows, Samuel Sakker, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, Adrian Tamburini, Robert Macfarlane, Michael Dimovski, Eleanor Greenwood, Alex Pokryshevsky, Melbourne Opera Chorus, Melbourne Opera Orchestra
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performances: 18, 20, 23 & 26 May 2021
For more information, visit: www.melbourneopera.com for details.
Image: Melbourne Opera presents Verdi’s Macbeth this May (supplied)