George V. Reilly

The Scottish ... Opera

Blackadder III - Sense and Senility

My opera education continues. Tonight, we saw Seattle Opera’s production of Verdi’s MacBeth.

I used to be very familiar with Shake­speare’s MacBeth, having studied it for two years in prepa­ra­tion for the Leaving Cer­tifi­cate (the major ex­am­i­na­tion at the end of Irish secondary school; ef­fec­tive­ly the entrance exam for university).

Verdi’s opera of MacBeth truncates Shake­speare’s plot, con­cen­trat­ing on the tragic flaw of the MacBeths. Their shared ambition, feeding off each other, both impels them to power, and leads to their ultimate downfall. The opera was written during the Risorg­i­men­to, when Italy was trying to break away from the Austrian empire, and doubles as a thinly veiled appeal to Italian patriotism.

I had more fun at Cosi Fan Tutte, when we saw it in March. The music and singing was fine in MacBeth, but I did not care for the mono­chro­mat­ic costumes and sets, which reminded me of Mourning Becomes Electra. The cast looked as if they had stepped out of a da­guer­rotype of a funeral. There’s no fun in Verdi’s MacBeth. Shake­speare’s tragedies are always leavened by some comic doings, but not Verdi’s.

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