Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
As it’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I remembered a review I did of the great Bard’s Scottish play at Leeds Grand Theatre. Now I’m no expert on Shakespeare, but I enjoy his work, having watched Michael Wood documentaries into Shakespeare’s life, but also having recently witnessed Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, in, you guessed it…Macbeth. Many times in the past have I ‘shelved’ my sparks of interest in Shakespeare, but perhaps with this anniversary we can all enjoy a period of Shakespeare study, analysis and even fascination.
Here’s my review.
On Tuesday night, Opera North delivered Guiseppe Verdi’s Opera adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at Leeds Grand Theatre.
The ‘Scottish play’ had its genesis at a time of revolutionary upheaval and religious strife, the time of the Gun-powder plot, and the coming to the throne of James I, a Scotsman with a Catholic for a wife. Shakespeare’s Macbeth seemed to catch the mood of the time, a mood of paranoia, mistrust and evil deeds, also with consideration that the plot involves the murder of a Scottish king.
Verdi was a serious fan of the infamous English poet and in 1846 he focused his attention towards the adaptation of Macbeth for Opera. Indeed, Macbeth offered itself to an operatic adaptation if we consider its gloomy and frightful atmosphere, its dramatic, confused yet insidious characters and the tragedy orientated plot.
The theatre was far from brimming, however the atmosphere was cosy and the true talent of the performers could certainly be heard, especially the faultlessly brilliant Lady Macbeth played by Kelly Cae Hogan and the stern yet psychotic Macbeth delivered by Bela Perencz.
Opera North seem to have fashioned the adaptation from an early medieval setting towards a mid- twentieth Century one where the dress and style of the performers would have seemed at home in an Orwell novel.
Importantly, Verdi kept a lot of the central elements of Shakespeare’s original in his adaptation. Verdi himself thought it important to vehemently stick to the true message and mood of the play. In fact, Verdi became deeply involved with Shakespeare’s work and took time to preserve the essence of Shakespeare within his adaptation.
Indeed, Shakespeare often performed his plays in front of King James and his entourage. Perhaps the poet wished to convey the chaos and ceaseless blood-letting of civil war and aristocratic family feuds toward the king, attempting to influence the thoughts and ideas of the ruling elite of England. Certainly, the plot of Macbeth does hold some serious messages for any ruler, messages which could be of some use in the twenty-first Century.
The character Macbeth could be associated with many modern leaders and politicians who have been led astray by their own sense of power, status and mythology. A key message from Shakespeare through Macbeth could be over the folly and misery which can arise through the eruption of civil wars caused by an un-bending thirst for power and success.
Sung in Italian with English sub-titles
Running time: 2 hour 45 minutes
Tom Bone (Co-Editor at Consensus44)