Author: Christine Richard OBE FRSA

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Thursday, August 24th, 2017 at 12:42 pm
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Under conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, Verdi’s superb opera of Macbeth is stunning at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

A vigorous and athletic cast includes actors from the Sud Costa Occidentale and students from the Scuola del Mestieri dello Spettacolo del Teatro Bionda di Palermo. With all the elements re-told in dance, music and drama with the backdrop of an amazing set, this co-production with Associazione Aren Sferisterio-Macertata Opera Festival was one of the most exciting interpretations of the well-known ‘Scottish Play’ I have seen.

Emma Dante, Director, previously summarised her approach (in a conversation with Laura Anello and translated by Susannah Howe) as: ‘Macbeth is tormented, torn apart, manipulated. In fact, in the scene in which Duncan is murdered I give Macbeth a double, dressed exactly the same as he is. The double stabs the king first, but Duncan does not die, Macbeth has to take the dagger and murder him. This is how I represent that inner conflict.’

Asked if there is any light in the opera, Dante says: ‘There is Macbeth’s passion which is, in a way, a chink of light. And there is Duncan, the good king who becomes a Christ-like figure, a kind of martyr.’ And to the question, ‘What is it that kills Lady Macbeth?’ she says: ‘She dies of insomnia! At her end she is besieged by beds. She tries to lie down but cannot fall asleep. The hospital beds represent her pathological condition and the crown-shaped gates that descend from above represent her desire for power.’

Further into the interview Emma speaks of the blood-stained enormous flowing sheet of silk from which Macbeth emerges: ‘Yes, it is soaked in the blood of unsolved crime from the victims of war but also the blood of the many pregnancies starkly depicted. None of which was Lady Macbeth’s’.

The above excerpts and the description of how the Birnam wood came to the Scottish borders is a word picture of the interpretation. The use of a skeletal horse was dramatic; reminiscent of The War Horse production at the Festival Theatre and very evocative.

This fabulous, colourful and musically perfect production was spine-tingling and compulsive. The scenery was superb in a minimalist way, with golden thrones descending on to the set – the top one being for Macbeth; at first beyond his reach but when he finally reached that pinnacle, there was no way down… And after the forest of Birnam Wood comes on to the stage, the huge cast moves this well-known story swiftly to the eventual death of Macbeth.

The cast, led by Dante, (and Guiseppe Cutino Assistant Director; Giandrea NoCseda, Conductor; and Claudio Fenoglia, Chorus Master), offer an enthralling experience which is certainly one of the 70th Festival performances I shall never forget.

Performed in Italian with English surtitles.


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