EntertainmentOpera & Ballet

Opera North Macbeth at The Lowry Review

Opera North
The Lowry, Manchester

6-8 March 2014


Reviewed by Ann Durrell

The Tim Albery production of Verdi’s opera based on Shakespeare’s play is brought into mid 20th century. It opens by meeting the Weird Sisters and their chorus, who to me were dressed as washer women, think Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, and Lady Macbeth as she gives birth to a still born child. Next enter King Duncan’s generals, Macbeth and Banquo who receive a prophecy that Macbeth will be King and Banquo the father of kings. As the prophecy comes true Macbeth and his lady wife become power hungry, killing anyone who would get in their way and threatens their status as King and Queen of Scotland. The Weird Sisters are present throughout, watching what ensues. The performance is sung in the original Italian with subtitles on screens to each side of the stage.

During the first Act I found that the sound may have been an issue, as when the Weird Sisters and their chorus were singing it sounded rather quiet whilst the orchestra were loud. Similarly when Macbeth sang alone I could hear no real power. In the second Act this seemed to have been corrected as the sound was far stronger.

The three main Weird Sisters were often perched on steps to the back of the stage keeping watch on how their prophecy was unfolding and the chaos being caused. The set was changed during the performance by cast members, mostly the three Weird Sisters which for me took something away from what I wanted of them, which is pure sinister, it felt more like they were stage hands. I did not really understand why at one point they came out with knitting and the stick on beards did not work for me. It was as if they were trying to add humour which is not what I want from my Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth was styled in a blue suit, and I could not help but think of Lady Thatcher. I enjoyed her singing, but was not 100% that it suited the role. Saying that I cannot fault her performance, otherwise she acted with conviction.

The set is simple, washed out and bleak, adding to the hopelessness of the situation. The lighting was kept low throughout to create atmosphere however I did find that at times it was too dark to see the emotions on the performer’s faces. The trees which formed part of the set that were taken up and down throughout the performance, I did not feel that this added extra, it just became distracting.

The standout performances for me were those of Banquo and Macduff. From the outset Banquo (Paul Whelan) was commanding and believable, his voice excellent and strong. I really felt for Macduff (Jung Soo Yun) when he became a victim of Macbeth, he sang with emotion and passion.

I enjoyed the performance but felt a few changes could have made it really memorable.

Rating: 3/5

Tickets cost from £19 to £59 (includes £2 booking fee).

For more information or to book tickets visit www.thelowry.com/event/macbeth

3 Star

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