Friday, October 28, 2011

Jones' Macbeth in Lille

Macbeth, Opéra de Lille, May 15 2011

Director ..... Richard Jones [Geoffrey Dolton]
Conductor ..... Roberto Rizzi Brignoli

Dimitris Tiliakos ..... Macbeth
Susan Maclean ..... Lady Macbeth
David Lomeli ..... Macduff
Dimitry Ivashchenko ..... Banco
Bruno Ribeiro ..... Malcolm
Miriam Murphy, Julie Pasturaud ..... Lady Macbeth’s servants
Patrick Schramm ..... A doctor, A servant, A herald
Vincent Vantyghem ..... A murderer

Lille National Orchestra & Lille Opera Chorus

Yes, there are several very good shows that I didn't have time to blog about. This Macbeth was one of those.  This is a production that was premiered in Glyndebourne in 2007, then revived there in 2010, and it found its way to Lille. The cast was really excellent and --in a relatively small auditorium of the elegant Opéra de Lille-- the show was one of the most enjoyable (non-Wagner) operatic events in France this year.

Maestro Rizzi-Brignoli knows his Verdi very well, and he probably had the hardest task in this incarnation of the Richard Jones' production. He constantly had to tame the orchestra to avoid sounding too much like a military brass band.  That is what you have to cope with when performing a score meant for  a bigger venue. It is the opposite to performing baroque in large venues. So even if at times too apprehensive, and often times too fast for my taste, the overall quality of the orchestral performance was very good.

The top notch cast was obviously dominated by Dimitris Tiliakos in the title role. He knows this role from all possible angles and this production did good to him -- he could not overindulge in the madness scenes because it would contradict the Jones' initial intentions. Very solid vocally, giving his best scenically - Tiliakos was at his best.  I like Dmitri Ivashchenko  in all the roles he sings. He is one of those reliable names who sing the second roles but whose contribution crucially changes the overall impression about the event. Here his strong incarnation of Banco only solidified his reputation. This was the first time for me to attend a show with David Lomeli performing, and yes,  his Macduff was gripping. His talent is undeniable and I hope we will hear a lot about him in the years to come. The role of Lady Macbeth was sung by Susan Maclean, the famous Kundry from the Stefan Herheim production of Parsifal in Bayreuth. She is yet another American who settled in Europe to discover that she is a talented actress too. She was scenically SUPERB; she carried the show on her shoulders. Even if she  struggled in "La luce langue", she had many moments of brilliance, and her overall performance was remarkable.
Although in a very small role, Bruno Ribeiro marked his territory by a beautiful timbre and energetic emission. Hope we will get to see him in a bigger role.

What to say about the Richard Jones production? Like in Glyndebourne 2010, he did not supervise the revival of his production. His assistant, Geoffrey Dolton, did. Jones decided to avoid the dark colors, heavy atmosphere of murders and paranoia, he decided to break the cliché descriptions of the King's madness. He instead mixes "cold and hot" all the time and ultimately manages to highlight that banal side of evil. It is a bit like what Quentin Tarantino did to the movie portraying murderers.

There is tartan, there are kilts, there are many axes... but whenever the things get too gory, Jones throws in a joke that actually work: when Banco was killed his remains were packed in a cardboard box with a Smiley face on it. Later on when Macbeth starts showing the first signs of paranoia he will imagine to be pursued by that same cardboard box, and the same Smiley. How can you not laugh at that?! The whole show is structured in this way, except that you laugh less and less -- not because the jokes are less funny, but because that banality of murders becomes actually scary. To make that effect on you, the only two unambiguously serious episodes happen in the last part of the show: the grieving of Macduff, and the sleepwalking scene that occurs close to a washing machine where Lady Macbeth desperately tries to wash the blood stains off her white gloves -- blood stains that only she can see. She will later self-suffocate by a laundry bag.

Apart from the certitude that the action takes place in Scotland, it is not quite clear when it happens. I saw in a press material that it was meant to be in the 50's-60's. I could even easier picture the witches as the refugees from Eastern Europe that had fled the West Europe in the 90's and their presence indeed terrified the Westerns societies [those people are victims of wars and they are so much like us!], which is indeed similar to what the witches in Macbeth do.

So, the witches in this production come in three generations --teenagers, blond middle-aged women, and grannies-- all emerging from their temporary homes, the caravans...

This is a very different take on Macbeth than the one by Warlikowski [that to me remains as one of the top-5 best opera shows I have ever seen in my long life], but it is very well structured, it has a surprising Tarantino flavor, brought much needed modernity to this opera, and helped me forget Jones' Lohengrin from Munich that I did not like at all.

Several production photos from Lille:

My curtain call photos:

Susan Maclean, David Lomelli, Dimitry Ivashchenko, and Bruno Ribeiro

Susan Maclean, Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, and Yves Permentier (chorus master)

Dimitris Tiliakos, Lady Macbeth, Macduff (who wears the scarf of the local soccer team that in the same week won the French championships)

And a short excerpt (presented on the French TV --  France 3)

1 comment:

  1. I'm curious about your reference to the Warlikowski Macbeth being one of the 5 all-time best opera productions you've seen in your entire lifetime. Could you tell us what your top 5 all-time favorite productions are?