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Robert Benson, November 2012

This production directed by Phyllida Lloyd was first presented at the Royal Opera in 2002. The DVD contains the revival from the June 13, 2011 performance, and it is a winner in every way. The sets and costumes, emphasizing blood red and black, are simple and work perfectly…the cast throughout is outstanding, featuring the remarkable new Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, sensational as Lady Macbeth. A bright star on the operatic scene, for sure. The reliable Simon Keenlyside is a sensitive, troubled Macbeth, Raymond Aceto is outstanding as Banquo. The many choruses are sung with uncommon precision under Antonio Pappano’s direction. Viewed on Blu-Ray, this is stunning visually, with excellent audio as well. Another outstanding operatic DVD! © 2012 Read complete review

David Patrick Stearns
Gramophone, July 2012

VERDI, G.: Macbeth (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1063D
VERDI, G.: Macbeth (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7095D

…these are distinctive additions to the Macbeth performance canon, even if they may not be top choices.

In the Royal Opera House DVD, Keenlyside is the more idiomatic of the two Macbeths and is heard here in perhaps his most successful Verdi role so far. With scruffy beard stubble and long hair pulled back in a ponytail…Keenlyside’s profile becomes determined, even slightly hook-nosed, creating the low-born look of somebody who could only murder his way to the throne. Vocally, though, you know that Keenlyside is an accomplished Lieder singer by the dramatic precision in his phrase readings throughout…, and, as always, his tone quality is a magnet for one’s ear.

In the staging, Phyllida Lloyd isn’t above stating the obvious. Generally…the production is wonderfully atmospheric. The witches are red-turbaned beings with dark mono-brows…and act out their prophecies in ways that poignantly illustrate the domesticity the Macbeths are giving up due to their political ambitions. The video direction is in all the right places at the right times.

Conductor Antonio Pappano is the most important artistic catalyst here. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene is a typical Verdi aria except that the vocal line is masterfully splintered amid nervous recurring rhythms. By no means is Pappano the first conductor to accentuate these things but, together with Lloyd’s production, operatic elements fuse with exceptional power. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

William R. Braun
Opera News, July 2012

VERDI, G.: Macbeth (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1063D
VERDI, G.: Macbeth (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7095D

An intensely musical performance by Simon Keenlyside in the title role and a deeply considered production by Phyllida Lloyd, each of them attuned to the sound and the sense of Verdi’s music, put this Macbeth at the top of the DVD competition for this tricky opera. Keenlyside’s performance is highly detailed in vocal terms. He can be dreamy or pensive, as well as tormented, as the role requires. The dagger monologue is sung with reserves of breath, and the final section of the Act II finale, “Sangue a me,” is sung with the sort of Verdian legato that is supposedly extinct today. Verdi provided an unusually wide range of expression marks for this role, even more than in many of his later operas, and Keenlyside has worked them all into his portrayal as if he had thought up the ideas himself. As an actor, he gives every indication that he would be capable of carrying the role in Shakespeare’s play.

Lloyd has done three important things. The first is that she tells the story clearly. But Lloyd, having done the essentials of her job well, has also left room for theatrical inventions. Most of the ballet music is cut, but Lloyd retains the final, wispy movement of the aerial spirits. It accompanies a pantomime of the Macbeths’ alternate, untaken path, in which they are adoring parents.

Conductor Antonio Pappano has raised his game in a real partnership with Lloyd. Sometimes the staging seems to generate the musical interpretation. Pappano captures the oddities in the orchestral spacings—the spare textures before “Fatal mia donna,” the hints of Wagner’s Ortrud and Telramund at the start of Act III, the skittering highest notes—with affection. 

The video director, Sue Judd, mercifully has rendered Lloyd’s production in a way that allows us to listen to the music—no pointless moving camera shots or ping-pong edits—and some distant establishing shots let us appreciate Lloyd’s complete stage pictures. © 2012 Opera News Read complete review

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, June 2012

This is an excellent Macbeth in virtually every respect: high marks must go to both the cast, led by Simon Keenlyside and Liudmyla Monastyrska, and the orchestra under the deft baton of Antonio Pappano. But let us not overlook the brilliant and imaginative stage director Phyllida Lloyd…With so many strengths, even down to the costuming and lighting…and with no perceptible weaknesses anywhere, this must be counted as one of the finest Verdi productions on DVD in recent years.

Soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska is a superstar in development. She has a powerful, beautiful voice…Her Or tutti sorgete is splendidly sinister and beautifully sung, with a powerful, rousing close. Her La luce langue is another highpoint here. The intensity she projects in the first half of the opera is remarkable…Keenlyside, on the other hand, begins appropriately as a mild-mannered sort of fellow, but then grows more ruthless and amoral as the story develops. His vocal resources are impressive too. The other singers in the cast, Raymond Aceto as Banquo in particular, turn in splendid work as well.

…Antonio Pappano leads the orchestra with a knowing hand. His take on this work is filled with tension and drama, with well chosen tempos and attention to meaningful detail. The orchestra follows his lead with total commitment and spirit throughout. The sound reproduction is vivid and the camera work is excellent. The sets and costuming in Phyllida Lloyd's production powerfully convey a dark, medieval sense…These imaginative Lloyd touches, as well the opening scene of Act III…add to the grim, dark atmosphere of this production.

This is truly a remarkable union of the art of Verdi and Shakespeare! © 2012 Classical Net Read complete review

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, May 2012

It’s very good all-round, well filmed and well captured in excellent sound but, as it should be, it’s the performances of the two leads that will capture the attention.

Simon Keenlyside and Liudmyla Monastyrska give one of the finest portrayals of the couple that I have come across. In both cases what lifts them into the category of the very special is the way they manage to chart the character’s development. Macbeth is a role that Keenlyside has grown into. He has the depth, the charisma and the energy that make the role complex and interesting; more than a great soldier laid low. His baritone is rounded and complex, just right to capture the many facets of the character’s journey. In the opening scene with the witches he comes across as vulnerable and impressionable into the bargain. However, he noticeably hardens in the second scene, and the dagger soliloquy finds him tougher and less humane. Even in the great duet after the murder his voice has more steel than remorse. This trajectory continues right to his final aria, Mal per me, which is extraordinary in its power and its sense of a life wasted. Perhaps he goes a little too far into snarling in the “sound and fury” sequence, but this remains an extraordinary interpretation of the character that I would love to have heard live. He is partnered by an equally exciting soprano in Liudmyla Monastyrska, a new name to me. She, too, charts the character’s development brilliantly, but she does so with quite extraordinary vocal tools. Her opening salvo, Ambizioso spirto, is exhilarating in its gleam, but cold with a palpable edge of steel which she maintains throughout the scene. Her vocal equipment is thrilling to listen to, however, not least in the coloratura of her cabaletta and the Brindisi of the second act. However, she undergoes the opposite journey to her husband so that, by the sleepwalking scene, she has shaded down her vocal colour to be a shadow of what it was. It’s a remarkable transition, and it makes the sleepwalking scene so much more effective, not least when she rises to a remarkable pianissimo in her final phrase. For these two alone this DVD would be required viewing. The others are fine, if not exceptional. Aceto sings Banquo’s aria very well but the character is rather uninvolving. The same is true of Macduff, though he isn’t quite as interesting to listen to. Malcolm’s few stage moments go off well, but there’s no doubt that it’s the Macbeths themselves who are the main draw here.

The production is fine too, stark in its contrasts of black, red and gold. Lloyd adopts a fairly minimalist approach, relying on lots of squares and cubes, most notably as an open cage where Duncan is murdered and the Macbeths plot the future. It’s her use of the witches that is most interesting. For her they are not restricted to the scenes on the heath; they invisibly orchestrate much of the action, most notably assisting the escape of Fleance after Banquo’s murder. The third act begins with a fantastic image of the great cube spinning around, controlled by the witches, with Macbeth and his wife inside. The direction of the two leads is very good and, while there isn’t much to say about the other characters, there is nothing in the production to insult or distract.

The chorus, so important in this opera, are very good indeed, whether playing witches, murderers, soldiers or refugees. The orchestra are fantastic too. Pappano’s direction is thrilling throughout. In one of the short extra films—all fine if unremarkable—he says that Macbeth is one of his favourite operas and you can tell in the way he screws up the tension to a thrilling climax in the chorus following Duncan’s murder. He shapes a compelling, dark vision of the score and has a whale of a time while doing so. The camera direction is always appropriate and the DTS sound comes through very well.

An excellent release, altogether, and something that any fan of the opera would enjoy. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert Levine, March 2012

There is nothing murky about the musical end of the show… Anthony Pappano remains the go-to man for Italian opera; he even turns Verdi’s rum-tum-tum moments into suspense and urgency and makes us forget that this mostly forward-looking work was composed during his “galley” years.

Assisting him in the drama is our Macbeth, the superb singing actor Simon Keenlyside. …he nonetheless embodies the tormented character perfectly. He moves alternately stealthily and arrogantly, and is alert to everything going on around him. The voice has no trouble with the role’s high tessitura and his phrasing and sense of the Verdian line is peerless. His reading of Macbeth’s final arias renders the character a tragic figure.

Liudmyla Monastyrska…sails through the two-octave leaps, emits blazing high Bs and Cs, and produces a sound that is absolutely even in weight and texture from top to bottom. She handles the coloratura splendidly…and sings off the text. Her gigantic (as in Ghena Dimitrova-type gigantic) sound is easily and musically scaled back…

Raymond Aceto’s Banquo is sonorous and sincere…and Dimitri Pittas sings his aria with heart and Verdian shine. The rest of the cast, orchestra, and chorus are absolutely first-rate. © 2012 Read complete review

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