MACBETH – SALZBURG FESTIVAL 2023
REVIEW MACBETH: STARS ON STAGE IN BLOODY HORROR OPERA
Polish stage director Warlikowski’s horror staging of Verdi’s take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with star soprano Asmik Grigorian in front, is a wild experience at the Salzburg Festival – an opera production on a musical and technical level rarely seen elsewhere.
Let alone that the interpretation of Shakespeare’s dark drama about power-hungry, guilt, paranoia and descent into madness is so heavily extemporized that for periods of the 2.5 hours performance it is difficult to figure out what is really going on.
Singers, orchestra and, not least, a powerful Vienna State Opera Chorus perform at the highest level in a set design that captivates with its overwhelming mix of gigantic set pieces and video projections that alternate between retro sequences of Pasolini footage and live feed from the stage.
Real-time closeups from grotesque angles, captured with mini-cameras, hidden so deftly in props and set pieces that I could never figure out how they managed to pull off the complicated technical operation so superbly.
The music entertains with Verdi’s innovative use of orchestration, with the Vienna Philharmonic in great form, conducted by Philippe Jordan, successfully capturing the darkness and psychological turmoil.
Nightmarish dream visions mingle with grand, Evita-like victory ceremonies where one of the greatest soprano stars of today, Asmik Grigorian, shines in the role of Lady Macbeth, with her vibrant soprano and familiar stage presence.
In the title role, Belarusian baritone Vladislav Sulimsky also impresses with his powerful performance. Stars on stage in a production that some might call messy, but which I prefer to call hyperdynamic.
Spectacular it is when a baby is served at the banquet on a silver platter with a beautiful garnish of steamed vegetables, like a Flemish rococo still life, blown up on video to full stage width.
Wild film noir video clips of dark train stations are replaced by drone footage of the Scottish highlands, while executed children in their underwear are scattered across the stage and grotesquely masked dwarves mingle with bizarre groups of blind but all-seeing, cigarette-smoking witches.
Gynecological examinations of Lady Macbeth take place in public and determine her infertility – a diagnosis that speeds up the murders, culminating in a macabre woodoo castration of the title character, who is then wheeled around in a wheelchair with his crotch covered in blood.
All set in a 1930s fascist ambience that brings the story forward to the present day.
Is it too much? No, well, maybe. On the other hand, in this imaginative horror opera, Warlikowski infuses Verdi’s classic with a shot of modern vitamins that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
A great experience in Salzburg and no way around five stars from Got to See This.