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Verdi : Macbeth
(revised 1865 version with final scene from original 1847 version)

Royal Albert Hall 24 July 2007 [Prom 15]

Sylvie Valayre Lady Macbeth
Andrzej Dobber Macbeth
Stanislav Shvets Banquo
Peter Auty Macduff
Bryan Griffin Malcolm
Richard Mosley-Evans Doctor/Servant/Herald
Svetlana Sozdateleva Lady-in-Waiting
Douglas Rice-Bowen Assassin
Julie Pasturaud A Lady
Derek Townend Duncan
Luke Owen Fleanzio
Viggee Harding Hecate
Christopher Dixon Apparition 1
George Evans-Thomas Apparition 2
Martha Jurowski Apparition 3

Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski conductor

The annual Proms visit of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera is always highly anticipated. This year's, taking the opportunity to bring a semi-staged version of a new production of Verdi's Macbeth to contribute nicely to the Shakespearian theme of the season, proved no exception.


In the event, some things proved more memorable than others. Leading the list of positive attributes was the wholly committed contribution of the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Glyndebourne's Music Director Vladimir Jurowski. Clearly a man with an instinct for conducting Verdi, Jurowski made the music leap from the page so that drama was present in almost every phrase. Only occasionally did tempi dip below the driven and vital. One of the joys of a Jurowski performance is how well the orchestra is prepared.


I find Verdi's revised score can over-extend the endings of the acts particularly, whereas the earlier version rounds them off with greater dramatic impact. In other performances this might have been more of a contentious point, but Jurowski drew playing of interest not just in the opera's prominent scenes, but its areas of lesser action also. Brass and timpani produced more than ample full-bodied tone, but the strings also made notable contributions.


Other things though were less assured, or at the very least questionable. Sylvie Valayre and Andrzej Dobber made something of an odd couple as the Macbeths. Valayre's voice is clearly worn now, which in some respects helps it to suit the role, but her difficulty in projecting the tone somewhat took away from the dominance of the Lady in this production. That said, there were moments of drama and theatricality La luce langue and the sleepwalking scene, amongst them. What Andrzej Dobber lacked in facial expression he made up for with stylish phrasing. His was a performance that took hold more in the third and fourth acts when he rose to the challenge of confronting Banquo's ghost and made us believe he was at the mercy of the witch's cruel prophecies.


Stanislav Shvets' Banquo was solidly voiced, a true bass. He contrasted well with Dobber's Macbeth in their opening scenes together and brought elements of correctness to the character that made his assassination believable. Peter Auty's Macduff had the singular advantage of clear vocal projection into the vast arena of the Royal Albert Hall. Smaller roles were generally well taken, particularly the Lady-in-Waiting of Svetlana Sozdateleva.


The greatest oddity of the evening was the semi-staging of the action. With heads produced from orange dustbin liners, and axes from under the floorboards of the Macbeths' castle, it was clearly intended to be just enough to hold the plot together. Verdi's music fulfils that function and given Jurowski's committed conducting, that hardly needed further elaboration.


Evan Dickerson


In connection with ED's reservations about semi-staging at the Prom, readers may be interested to know that, to date, Glyndebourne Opera has declined to invite Musical Pointers (& other websites) to review their main and travelling productions, which has tended to skew our UK opera coverage - see also Only a Website with comments received [Editor]