[Met Performance] CID:291090

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, January 7, 1988

Debut : Eva Zseller, Philip Cokorinos

Macbeth (71)
Giuseppe Verdi | Francesco Maria Piave/Andrea Maffei
Frederick Burchinal

Lady Macbeth
Elizabeth Connell

Samuel Ramey

Vyacheslav M. Polozov

Thomas Booth

Eva Zseller [Debut]

Philip Cokorinos [Debut]

Talmage Harper

Andrew Murphy

John Lenis

James Courtney

Donald Peck

Cheryllynn Ross

Russell Christopher

Bloody Child
Mary Meyers

Crowned Child
Linda Mays

Kazimierz Kord

Peter Hall

John Bury

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stuart Hopps

Stage Director
Paul Mills

Macbeth received eleven performances this season.

Review 1:

Will Crutchfield in The New York Times
Opera: “Macbeth” at the Metropolitan

The Metropolitan Opera's revival of "Macbeth," which opened Thursday evening, has already been in the news as an example of the problems an opera house faces when star singers cancel. The baritone Renato Bruson pulled out without giving a reason (the falling value of the dollar, Met insiders say); the scheduled participation of the conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli and the soprano Eva Marton then fell like dominoes in response, and the performance was headed instead by Frederick Burchinal and Elizabeth Connell on stage and Kazimierz Kord in the pit.

Scrambles like this happen all the time, more often out of public view before the names are announced. The singer shortage guarantees them. But Thursday's performance left one thinking of other problems. Painfully missing was any sense that the house had rallied to do its damnedest by "Macbeth" despite the circumstances. The listless choral work, aimless ballet, low-intensity orchestral playing and excruciatingly tentative stage deportment of almost all concerned probably hurt this show at least as much as the absence of Mr. Bruson and Miss Marton — and these elements weren't beyond the Met's control.

It would be interesting to know how much time the stage director, Paul Mills, was given to rehearse this revival, and what ideas he might have about the piece. (The ideas of Peter Hall, who directed when the production was first seen but who is no longer named on the program, have presumably faded from view altogether). ‘Macbeth” gave the impression of a loss already written off, left to dangle in the wind for its allotted span of performances.

Obviously, two thrilling protagonists might have charged things up with radiated energy. The two capable artists the Met was able to engage needed a stronger support system and an enlivening directorial hand. Mr. Burchinal gave exactly the kind of performance he has given for years at the City Opera: steady, solid and honest, unmarred by vulgarity, distortion or strain. He inspired the confidence one feels in a singer who knows his voice and keeps his mind focused on the purposes of the character he is playing. But he does not have the natural vocal endowment or the freedom of technique to sing this music in a way that could be called grand, and he did not evince the urgency, the desperate sense of high stakes, the fire of attack and pathos of regret that make this role live.

Connell was both better and worse. Her voice has more color and interest of timbre, but the performance she gave Thursday was a classic demonstration of pasting on dramatic "touches" to suggest dramatic tension that just isn't there. She sang with glottal attacks, scoops, hardened tone, biting or murky vowel sounds and so forth, all presumably for the purposes of illustrating Lady Macbeth's sinister qualities, but nothing suggested she had gotten under the skin of the character — and if one hasn't, then the outward manifestations are far better omitted. In the same vein she signaled exaltation, reproach and power-lust with huge gestures that fell flat.

Her singing was wayward and, in the middle register where so much of the music lies, uncoordinated and sometimes insubstantial. One had the impression that if she polished up her vocalism and did not press so hard on the high notes, her voice would be more suited to a very different kind of role, more in the normal lyric soprano line of Marguerite or Violetta.

Samuel Ramey was in sonorous voice in the supporting role of Banquo; his tone rolled out impressively in "Come dal del," though one wished for a sharper sense of the words and of dramatic content. Vyacheslav M. Polozov displayed a strong metallic ring but crude style and reliable technique as Macduff. Phillip Cokorinos and Eva Zseller marked their house debuts satisfactorily in the small parts of the doctor and the lady-in-waiting.

Mr. Kord shaped the prelude finely and maintained thematic tempos and reasonable balances throughout, but did not seem to have a special feeling for the early-Verdi intensity that the score needs. "Macbeth" is a terribly uneven opera: partly a revelatory, breathtaking declaration of Verdi's musical-dramatic ambitions, partly a demonstration of Italian opera's incapacity in 1897 to approach the variety and strangeness of such a subject (the revisions of 1865 only intensify the contrast). It is absolutely not a piece that will play itself. The Met should do better by it or leave it alone.

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