Macbeth, Opera Holland Park, London

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The Independent Culture

Not Birnam Wood, perhaps, but Holland Park was resounding to the martial strains of Verdi's red-blooded take on the Scottish play.

Not Birnam Wood, perhaps, but Holland Park was resounding to the martial strains of Verdi's red-blooded take on the Scottish play.

Red-blooded in every sense: entering the tented auditorium at the start of the new season, we're confronted with the cream wall of Bob Bailey's clever design. By the time the punked-up witches have prophesied the death of the king and the deed is duly done, the first tear-stained streak runs down the wall, ingeniously turning from water to blood as it does. By the end of Act I, the entire wall is literally weeping tears of blood.

The exhilarating thing is the way in which the rough-hewn immediacy of Verdi's most primal score has been captured in the spirit of the performance. It's not perfect, but it brims with conviction from the whole cast.

The director Olivia Fuchs has her chorus, individually and collectively, striking barbaric poses. This is a sensational ensemble opera, and long before the trail of Scottish exiles rises to the sombre heights of the great "Patria oppressa" chorus, the commitment on stage is tangible. What of the great outburst of collective grief in the wake of Duncan's murder? Verdi would have thrilled to the highly visceral response of this young ensemble. They were full-on.

So were the principals. Miriam Murphy was Lady Macbeth, and this young, fearless Irish singer was going to "awaken the demons". She has bags of voice with a core of steel. Yet, in the Brindisi of the banquet scene, she showed she can place a well-pointed trill, how she's not all heft.

With Olafur Sigurdarson's Macbeth, the conviction was all. Well, almost all. He's a bit of a bruiser, stocky and barrel-chested. The colour of the voice is good, but it's an unvarnished sound that loses quality in the softer dynamics. Still, I guess we're not looking for elegance in a Macbeth.

All eyes and ears, though, should be on the young tenor Leonardo Capalbo. It's not often Macduff steals the show, but Capalbo did it with his one number. Star quality, no question.

Rough around the edges, maybe, but a spirited evening, expertly driven by conductor John Gibbons.

In rep to 24 June (0845 230 9769)

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