Commanding vocalism and visual opulence: Macbeth at the Teatro Regio, Turin

Verdi – Macbeth

Macbeth – Dalibor Jenis
Banco – Marko Mimica
Lady Macbeth – Anna Pirozzi
Dama – Alexandra Zabala
Macduff – Piero Pretti
Malcolm – Sabino Gaita
Medico – Nicolò Ceriani
Sicario – Davide Motta Fré

Coro del Teatro Regio, Orchestra del Teatro Regio / Giulio Laguzzi.
Stage director – Emma Dante.

Teatro Regio, Turin, Italy.  Sunday, July 2nd, 2017. 

Today marked my first visit to Turin’s fabulous Teatro Regio.  A fantasy of red and white, the auditorium has great sightlines from every seat and is blessed with a warm and resonant acoustic.  The welcome is cordial and the quality very high.  The city itself is a gem – an elegant and quite sophisticated downtown with excellent gelato, as one would expect in Italy.  It is certainly a most agreeable place to see a show and while this was my first time, I definitely hope that it won’t be the last.

As is so often the case, there were a few changes to the advertised cast for this Macbeth.  The originally-billed conductor, the Regio’s music director Gianandrea Noseda, withdrew due to injury and was replaced by Giulio Laguzzi.  Shortly before curtain up, an invisible voice announced that Marko Mimica would step in to sing Banco – Mimica was already scheduled to sing in the alternate cast.

The staging was the work of Emma Dante.  She brought together not only the house chorus but also actors from her own company.  There was a strong dance component to this production – dancers would be involved in creating imagery, while the chorus was arranged around the side or at the back.  At its best, it created some impressive stage pictures.  Certainly the scene of the dancers unrolling Macbeth’s cloak during the banquet scene while he was trapped on a platform, only for Lady Macbeth to put it on instead, really brought home the fact that the Lady was the motivating force behind the action.  At other points, one was left with a less coherent message, like the copulating witches at the start, or the hand movements of the chorus as the dancers danced around them.  At least one had the benefit of seeing buff, bearded gentleman dancers jumping around in their underwear.  Even the parking of the chorus on stage had its benefits in a ‘patria oppressa’ where, arranged in rows at the back and dressed in black, there was a stillness and melancholy that contrasted well with the constant movement earlier on.  Ultimately, this was opera as spectacle and if there were some interesting ideas that seemed not quite fully formed, it was never less than interesting to look at – certainly not with the dancing beds that accompanied the sleepwalking scene.

Musically, however, there was a lot of pleasure in today’s performance.  Anna Pirozzi was a tremendous Lady Macbeth.  She was on thrilling form today, commanding the stage from her very first entry and managing to hold the attention even when singing quietly among those dancing beds.  Sadly, she was denied the opportunity to read the letter as Dante had Macbeth give it as a speech to her, but she launched into ‘ambizioso spirto’ with exhilarating abandon.  Naturally, the role was sung off the text and she was able to turn the corners nicely in ‘or tutti sorgete’ (both verses but sadly not ornamented) and later on in the banquet scene.  She even made a respectable attempt at a trill.  Her copper-toned soprano was darkened slightly and throughout one felt in the utmost security with her vocalism.  Most impressive.

Dalibor Jenis gave us a Macbeth that was truly sung, far from the barkers we often hear in the role.  His isn’t the most glamorous baritone – it’s somewhat narrow in tone and there seem to be a limited range of tone colours, but this is a small price to pay for singing of such musicality.  The voice does carry well, is even in emission, registers are well integrated and the voice was always used within its limits.  His ‘pietà, rispetto, amore’ was sung with an excellent line and admirable breath control.  Piero Pretti was a superb Macduff.  His full-throated ardour gave much pleasure and his musical instincts were displayed at their best in an ‘ah, la paterna mano’ that was lovingly phrased.  There’s a lyricism to his sound but also a hint of metal in the core.  Marko Mimica also gave much pleasure as Banco.  The voice is big, warm and wonderfully complex.  There is good resonance there combined with an easy line and this is a voice that will surely grow even bigger with the passage of time.  Mimica is still young and I look forward to following his development.

The remainder of the cast was excellent and certainly pointed to the high standards maintained by the house.  A special mention for Alexandra Zabala’s nicely fruity Dama with a generous chest register.  The chorus gave us a warm, full-bodied sound.  I especially liked the resonant basses and tart mezzos.  Ensemble was tight throughout the entire show.  Giulio Laguzzi led a reading that was nicely swift with a splendid precision of attack as sharp as the knife that killed Banco.  There was a slight thinness of tone in the violins but that might just have been where I was sitting.  Certainly the brass playing was excellent – menacing within the textures in places and in others delightfully raucous.  Laguzzi was a sensitive accompanist but he also brought out so many varied colours in the score – the lunar shadows of the sleepwalking scene or the bright joviality of the opening witches’ chorus.

This was a Macbeth that gave a great deal of pleasure musically.  The staging however did have some nice ideas but ultimately perhaps worked better approached more as a visual spectacle than a penetrating consideration of the nature and corruption of power – which it never in fact claimed to be.  It looked good and sounded even better.  Sadly, this was the last performance of the run but it really was worth seeing for Pirozzi, Jenis, Pretti and Mimica, and Laguzzi’s exciting conducting.  The theatre itself is a gem, the house forces excellent and is most certainly definitely worth a visit.

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One comment

  1. >>The staging however did have some nice ideas but ultimately perhaps worked better approached more as a visual spectacle

    I had exactly the same reaction to the Turin Faust

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