Macbeth, Royal Opera House, review: Phyllida Lloyd’s fine revival has darkly austere magnificence

Anthony Ward’s designs and Paul Constable’s lighting conspire to create effects reminiscent of Japanese kabuki

Michael Church
Wednesday 17 November 2021 15:35
Comments
<p>Anna Pirozzi as Lady Macbeth and Simon Keenlyside as Macbeth in Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ </p>

Anna Pirozzi as Lady Macbeth and Simon Keenlyside as Macbeth in Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’

The Royal Opera House has been sluggish and tentative in its emergence from pandemic sleep. It’s so nervous about getting bums back on seats that it’s giving 13 performances of its most dependable banker – Richard Eyre’s evergreen production of La traviata – and even that isn’t filling the auditorium. This is a worrying portent for the operatic future.

Yet everything in this season’s ROH repertoire has been good: a boldly stylised new Jenufa, a new Rigoletto gloriously acted and sung, and now a fine revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth. This opera has a darkly austere magnificence, and so does Lloyd’s production. The plot unfolds in a chiaroscuro world under an angrily stormy sky. Anthony Ward’s designs and Paul Constable’s lighting conspire to create effects reminiscent of Japanese kabuki, and the slaying of the protagonist is closely modelled on the climactic scene of Kurosawa’s great film of Shakespeare’s play, Throne of Blood (1957).

Verdi used the play to amplify the aspirations of the Risorgimento, the 19th-century movement for the unification of Italy, which was picking up speed as the opera was being composed. Meanwhile, there are moments in this ROH production when one senses the revival director Daniel Dooner pulling us all into the 21st-century present: the courtiers in Macbeth’s palace morph into famished migrants looking exactly like those on our screens from the Belarus-Polish border. The whole evening feels political.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in