Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Bill White
Fanfare, November 2012

A DVD that actually looks a bit like Shakespeare’s Scottish setting and features two very fine leads in Simon Keenlyside and Liudmyla Monastyrska, both capable of beautifully singing Verdi’s rather good score, moves this set immediately to the top. © 2012 Fanfare 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

Anne Shelley
Music Media Monthly, June 2012

Macbeth provides the opportunity for the kind of rich and full company performance you’d expect from Verdi, but it’s the lead performers that make this particular rendition worth considering. As Macbeth, baritone Simon Keenlyside has a natural, sexy presence that’s a great complement to the special, consistent ping of his sound. In Lady Macbeth’s aria “La luce langue,” Liudmyla Monastyrska especially sparkles with intensity and evil plans. And American Raymond Aceto…masterfully throws his heart on the stage with his caution to Macbeth in “Come dal ciel precipita.” The darkness of this production is relentless, but the mystery and grandeur of the score and the convincing performances envelop you in a bel canto blanket of awesomeness. This disc’s additional features, such as the bonus interviews with Pappano, provide a nice appetizer for the opera itself. © 2012 Music Media Monthly Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

Taken from a performance at London’s Royal Opera House in June 2011, it reprises the 2002 production directed by Phyllida Lloyd that is largely in ‘traditional’ mode. Based around black, red, cream and gold with no shortage of blood, the costumes are designed to place the action at times long past. Maybe not all that we see matches the words of Francesco Piave’s libretto, and maybe Macbeth would not have had a ball-point pen and a clipboard to write down the witches’ predictions, but the fights are with swords and daggers so as to retain a period identity. We have grown accustomed to Lloyd’s love of having sparse sets that suddenly burst out in a moment of sheer opulence, the king’s golden horse reminding us of the big white horse in her production of Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana. You may have reservations about the witches being used as scene-shifters, or about the scarlet turbans they wear, and that they invade the Macbeth’s bedroom to manipulate the couples fortunes, but at least they do something. The casting is strong with Simon Keenlyside’s brooding Macbeth looking like a man caught up in a destiny that he cannot control, his voice more lyric than tenors usually cast in the role. Liudmyla Monastyrska’s Lady Macbeth would strike fear into any man’s heart, for she is a formidable young lady both visually and vocally. Come the sleep-walking scene and she proves she can thin down her voice most effectively. But it is in the big confrontations between husband and wife that her vocal sparks really start flying. Certainly she opens up from her first appearance and has the stamina to continue through the opera without sparing her voice. Verdi was responsible for making the characters surrounding the duo into little more than cardboard cutouts, though Raymond Aceto’s big bass voice makes an imposing Banquo, and there is a nice cameo part from Steven Ebel as Malcolm. The chorus are in fine shape—the witches doing their best, but there are too many of them—while the robust orchestral accompaniment adds considerably to the performance. Antonio Pappano allows the singers some spacious tempos but keeps the crowd scenes moving at an admirable pulse.. …the visual aspects are of stunning quality, and the audio aspects—which come in surround or standard stereo—are admirable. Italian, English, French, Spanish or German subtitles, together with cast interviews and rehearsals as additional tracks. Also in standard DVD OA1063D. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group