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June 2006

Das Märchen eines armen Narren

MacbethoteyA new production of Verdi's Macbeth opened at Seattle Opera on May 6th. The director was Bernard Uzan, his work on Tosca at San Francisco certainly was different. The Tosca production was pretty, but somewhat boring. This Macbeth is both ugly and boring.

Robert Israel's set was a silver room with three doors and a balcony that could be hidden. There were various ruins strewn about, and these were manipulated by the witches. The stupidest part of the opera was when blood started dripping from one of the panels of the room, predictably, for Lady Macbeth's mad scene. Mats had been carefully placed on the floor where the blood dripped, so when one panel started dripping, the audience could see just where the next blood streams would appear. Israel's costumes were pretty dull, a lot of tartan, except for the witches, who seemed to be dressed as either brides or widows from different eras, with some red shoes or gloves for good measure.

Gordon Hawkins was adequate in the lead role, he had sung the night before and Louis Otey was set to sing for our particular performance, but he took ill and was replaced at the last moment. Elena Zelenskaya was a cold Lady Macbeth, her voice is icy. The cast was all fine, but not particularly exciting, with the exception of tenor Joseph Calleja as Macduff. He was the only voice that stood out and his brief aria in Act III was the high point of the performance.

It was a bit surreal to hear the famous lines of Shakespeare being sung in Italian, for some reason Otello doesn't bother me as much as Macbeth as an opera. Also, much of the music in Act I and II struck me as inappropriately gleeful.

Regina de' Longobardi

RodalindaactiiWadsworth production of Händel's Rodelinda opened at the Met on Tuesday, May 2, 2006. I was surprised that Thomas Lynch's set was so beautiful, since his Lohengrin was reminiscent of IKEA, though admittedly, his Ring set for Seattle was gorgeous. The library set was particularly impressive to the audience, which gasped when it was revealed in Act II. Act II also featured a horse, this device being a perennial favorite. The scenes changed flawlessly, the set moved both left and right and up and down. It was a bit much though, one did feel that things were always in motion, if not in the set itself, then in the choreography. The singers frenetically dashed around, seemingly without purpose. It was as if they believed the music was just so boring that it was necessary to fidget and fumble all over the stage as a method of distraction.

As for the singing, the lead, Renée Fleming, was somewhat flat, her voice is thin and she seems distant even though her volume is fine. Her voice has not a trace of sensuality, though I am not convinced that is necessary for Baroque music. Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Blythe (Eduige) had more emotion in her voice, though she can be harsh. Tenor Kobie van Rensburg (Grimoaldo) also had passion, though his arpeggios and trills were weak and muddy. Bass John Relyea was a suitable villain as Garibaldo, the role does not show off how beautiful his voice is. Countertenor Christophe Dumaux (Unulfo) has an exceedingly girlish voice, light and slightly quiet. Andreas Scholl certainly was the star of the show, though his Bertarido was slightly stiff and awkward, vocally he was amazing. He has incredible power and control. His transitions between head voice and chest voice were perfect.