Placido Domingo as Macbeth at Les Arts in Valencia Palau

The new season of the Palau de Les Arst Valencia, It has started six successful performances of Verdi's Macbeth, played by Placido Domingo, with a massive public attendance, demonstrating the real pull of this incombustible singer, dedicated in recent years to baritone roles.

Giuseppe Verdi I had a special admiration for the plays of William Shakespeare, adapting in his youth the Macbeth, and in his bright senescence: Otello, and a compendium taken from The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, with the title of Falstaff, that become his last two great operas.

The Grand Master of Busetto, had in mind to bring other Shakespearean dramas to the world of opera: The Tempest, Hamlet or King Lear, projects that never materialized. The composition of Macbeth was a real challenge for Verdi, since in the middle of the XIX century, It was unthinkable a work where the excessive passion for power and the way to achieve it at any price was raised, even through treason and murder, in contrast to tragic romantic stories, that the Italian public liked so much at that time. The premiere of Macbeth took place at the Teatro Della Pergola in Florence on 14 March 1847, with great success for its author, who had to go on stage to greet the public up to thirty-seven times. Verdi extensively revised this score to be performed at the Paris Opera, in 1865.

The main modifications included a new aria for Lady Macbeth "The tongue luce”In Act II, the rewriting of some passages from the scene of the spectral apparitions of Act III, the inclusion of a ballet in that same act, a new beginning of Act IV, with the chorus of exiles "Patria oppressed”And a new ending, which included a structured music in the form of a fugue for the battle, which is followed by a triumphal chorus "Victoria! Victoria”, eliminating Macbeth's death on stage from the first version "Bad for me that I entrusted myself”.

Macbeth practically disappeared from the stage after the Parisian performances of 1865, with very few representations during the first half of the 20th century. The definitive recovery of this score occurred at the opening of the season of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 7 December 1952 with the extraordinary and unique creation of Lady Macbeth by María Callas, with a masterful concert and musical direction by Victor de Sabata. That scalígera performance was recorded live and has remained since then as an authentic reference of this opera. It should also be noted, the great contributions made from the seventies of last century, by directors such as Riccardo Muti and the late Claudio Abbado, who have bequeathed us highly representative recordings and video footage of this attractive Verdi title.

The version represented in the Palau de les Arts is that of 1865, excluding Act III ballet, and the conclusive triumphal chorus of the opera "Victoria! Victoria”, and retrieving the end of the version from 1947, with the aria from Macbeth "Bad for me that I entrusted myself”.

It's a real shame this production doesn't include that brilliant final chorus and Act III ballet., taking into account that the Palau de les Arts has an excellent dance corps.

This production was carried out jointly by the Rome Opera House and the Salzburg Festival, where its premiere took place in 2011, with the address of the prestigious registry Peter stone.

In this Valencian replacement he has assumed the stage direction Carlo Bellamio, who expertly solves the staging of the final battle, where the contestants use authentic swords that when struck produce sparks. As well, it is truly novel to represent the three witches by dancers who act and pretend to sing, work performed by members of the female choir disguised as trees. The four killers of Banquo, They also appear dressed as dancers, and in this case, it is the male voices of the choir that sing hiding under great black cloaks. But nevertheless, Carlo Bellamio neglects to control the movements of singers and choir on stage, many times, genuinely erratic.

The scenery Ferdinand Wögerhauer it turns out to be minimalist at all costs, with very few objects, among them, the panel that slides across the stage, with a door through which Lady Macbeth exits at the beginning of her performance, and where Macbeth penetrates to assassinate King Duncan, reappearing in the development of the sleepwalking scene of Lady Macbeth. Highlight the excellent lighting design by Joachim Barth, with stage backgrounds projected in different colors, always based on the dramatic development of the action. Y, that zonal lighting, when it emerges from the ground, a big kettle, in the scene of Act III witches. Very attractive costume design by Anna María Heinreich, totally adequate - much appreciated- to 11th century Scotland, in which the action takes place.

The Orchestra of Valencia, again demonstrated its excellent quality, with an address the hungarian Henrik Nánási, flexible, contrasted, of great dramatic force and well concerted, facilitating the work of singers. The orchestra exhibited a bright and compact sound. all, it was already revealed in the interpretation of the initial overture, where strong sounds alternate, with a recurring and beautiful orchestral sequence, who will reappear in the scene of Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking from Act IV.

Highlight the performance of that brilliant music, in march form when King Duncan and his retinue appear, in Act I, or those musical moments full of lightness and color during the banquet of Act II, in contrast to the gloomy and haunting sounds of the previous scene , in which the murder of Banquo occurs. Great orchestral performance in the concluding concertgoers of the first two acts, in the musical introduction of the choir "Oppressed homeland!”, at the beginning of Act IV, as well as the brilliant escape in the final battle. Within the magnificent rendering of all the members of the orchestra, It is worth highlighting the excellent solo interventions by Cristina Montes to the harp, the english horn of Ana Rivero; Y, especially, of the oboe of Christopher Bowman, the clarinet of John Moon Enrinc and the flute of Alvaro Octavio.

Extraordinary performance of Coro de la Generalitat Valenciana, very well directed by its owner Francesc Perales, in his numerous interventions throughout the performance, with that squeaky and morbid sound of the female choir in the scenes where the witches appear, and especially in the chorus of Act III "Three times the rattling cat meows”. Components of the male choir, they also have a great performance at the Banquo murder scene, in Act II singing “Who requires you to join ni"With that dark and threatening phrase"Trembles, Banquo! In your side”. The choir in full, makes brilliant speeches in concerters, highlighting greatly, the imposing coral "Your anger is formidable and ready”Of the concertmaster who closes Act I. Of impressive dramatic force was his interpretation of “Oppressed homeland!”At the start of Act IV.

The stage appearances of Placido Domingo, they become real events that move a huge amount of public, to listen to an artist who has managed to combine his excellent vocal and interpretive quality, with a tremendous capacity to enhance his image through the media and become one of the great media phenomena of the last fifty years. June 2009 I had the chance to listen to him, precisely in this Palau de les Arts, one of his last tenor interventions, in his remarkable rendition of the Siegmund from La Valkyrie, with direction of Zubin Metha, where the singer already sixty-eight years old, showed a conspicuous decrease in his high register, still preserving its beautiful center and great interpretive capacity.

That same year he began a second and successful career as a baritone.: Domingo sings baritone roles, with tenor voice, and as much as I want to darken the broadcast, has no baritonal setting, which distorts his interpretations of Verdian roles as Simón Boccanegra, Rigoletto, The Count of Luna from Il Trovatore, Giorgio Germont of La Traviata or Francesco Foscari of I due Foscari. In these Valencian performances he has been heard in the role of Macbeth, his latest Verdi baritonal creation, with uneven results given the difficulties of this character. Ya, almost seventy-five years old, Domingo was short of fiato, which caused him real problems to link long sentences, as in the case of that extensive soliloquy "Know my brideWhich he performs before assassinating King Duncan in Act I. As well, a decrease in volume was evident, that made him lose vocal presence in duets with the powerful Lady Macbeth of Ekaterina Semenchuk, and make him practically inaudible in concert.

His performance improved noticeably in the last two acts., offering a good on-scene performance of the spectral appearances of Act III, and sing the aria "Pity, respect love"Of Act III, although far from the interpretations of Italian baritonal voices of splendid singing line, like Renato Brusson, Piero Capuccilli or Leo Nucci, not to quote the North Americans Sherrill Mines, and especially Leonard Warren, who allowed, even, conclude this aria with a monumental sharp. Domingo made his best intervention, singing, rather reciting, the concluding aria of the opera "Bad for me that but I entrusted”. It is necessary to point out, that despite the limitations stated in his portrayal of Macbeth, Domingo continues to show - miraculously to his years- a great timbral beauty, coupled with a magnificent stage performance, being loudly applauded at the end of the performance.

Ekaterina Semenchuk como Lady Macbeth, showed great vocal power, along with a remarkable theatrical performance, which was already revealed in his stage entrance reciting with true style “On the day of victory I met them"To lead to singing with an excellent interpretation of the recitative-aria"Ambitious spirit you are, Macbetto……Come! T'afretta!”, sung with authentic Verdian accents and conclude with the cabaletta “Now all arise”, moving well in the central and high register, although showing some inconsistency in the bass range and some problems in the agility of the cabaletta, which also occur again in that repeated toast of a marked bel canto character "Fill the chalice”, during the banquet scene that ends Act II. The Russian mezzo made a good interpretation of the aria “The tongue luce”At the beginning of Act II, although with difficulties in the emission to the acute natural si in the final part of the aria, and lacking incisiveness in the phrasing to show the intrinsic evil of the character. Notable was his rendition of the great sleepwalking scene, in Act IV, giving his performance pathetic accents, with a nuanced edge line, though ugly cutting off the climb to the final over-treble d. Note his magnificent performances in duets with Macbeth, especially the conclusion of Act III "Where am I?"Finished with the vibrant stretta"Hour of death and revenge”. It is worth highlighting his interventions in the concertantes, where his voice emerged with force, above chorus and orchestra broadcasting in forte.

MacDuff's Tenor Paper, is secondary in this opera, but it has an intervention of authentic brilliance in the recitative-aria “O my children…..Ah, the paternal hand”One of the most beautiful pages composed by Verdi and interpreted in a remarkable way, although with some tuning problem due to Giorgio Berrugi, who exhibits a beautiful voice, although excessively lyrical, for a character that requires a lyrical tenor-pushed, as is the case of the great Carlo Bergonzi, who has bequeathed us an extraordinary and referential interpretation of this page.

The bass Alexander Vinogrador Correctly sang the role of Banquo, showing a voice of certain rotundity but with a little refined line of singing, in his duet with Plácido Domingo, at the start of the opera, improving his performance in the aria "Study the pass, or my son….As it falls from heaven”That precedes his assassination in Act II. Well the rest of the secondary interpreters, highlighting Federica Alfano, in her short appearance as Lady Macbeth's Lady in the Sleepwalking Scene.

Text: Diego Manunel Garcia Perez
Photograph: Tato Baeza