|Meet the Macbeths, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Verdi's Macbeth has an equally cursed performance history. It was arguments over an upcoming production of Macbeth that caused Rudolf Bing to fire Maria Callas. In 1988 a man named Bantcho Bantchevsky decided to kill himself by leaping to his death from the balcony of the Met during a performance of Macbeth. For awhile it looked like this revival of Macbeth was equally cursed. The highly anticipated pairing of Plácido Domingo and Anna Netrebko was clouded by allegations of sexual harassment by Domingo. Domingo sang the dress rehearsal but "withdrew" from performances a day before the run was to start. Željko Lučić went on the first night with no rehearsal. Then the second performance had a last minute throw-on as Željko Lučić (the cover for Domingo) fell sick. A Sirius XM audio from the opening night sounded very rough. Everyone sounded like they had had a couple of sleepless nights.
|Lucic and Netrebko, photo @ Marty Sohl|
For one, I don't think I've ever heard Željko Lučić sound so good in years. Maybe ever. The cloudy, wooly, colorless sound was not there, and neither was the dull interpretation. Lučić's two big arias "O lieto augurio" and "Pietà, rispetto, amore" were sung with a full-bodied tone and (unusual for him) committed acting. Lučić used his slightly hunched body shape to create a haunted, introverted leader who is both afraid of and attracted to power. He also raves at Banquo's ghost with a convincing terror.
|Netrebko, photo @ Ken Howard|
In the recitative before "Vieni, t'affreta" she didn't quite make it to the high C. The aria and cabaletta itself were strangely underpowered, very approximate in both notes and pitches, with squally high notes, and the golf-clap applause reflected that. In the glorious act one concertato she dropped out for quite a few chunks, and didn't sing the optional D-flat that Anna Pirozzi apparently interpolated the other night.
But Netrebko warmed up to give a chilling, exciting "La luce langue" and then delivered a vocally excellent performance for the rest of the evening. She even trilled well in the Brindisi, and she almost never trills well. In her repeat of the Brindisi her voice rattled with rage against her distressed husband. Her Sleepwalking Scene is maybe the best I've heard her do it. The dark color of her voice fits this music well, and compared to 2014 she is less showy, quieter, more believably haunted. She capped "Una macchia" with a beautiful piano D-flat that earned her a well-deserved ovation.
Netrebko's interpretation of Lady Macbeth is rather campy but enjoyable. She glowers at the audience, shakes her hair, and randomly rolls around on the floor a lot. When her husband shows some weakness or hesitation she gives him two hard kicks in the rear. In the banquet she snarls at him to get himself together. Netrebko has said she really identifies with this role and it shows -- she looks like she's having fun out there.
On a shallow note Netrebko's husband Yusif Eyvasov has been posting about his workout regimen on Instagram and has lost a visible amount of weight. Netrebko also has lost weight. Still voluptuous, but she looks great with that diet/workout regimen that her husband is following.
|Abdrazakov as Banquo, photo @ Ken Howard|
Matthew Polenzani (Macduff) sang HIS showy aria "Ah, la paterno mano" with impeccable legato and musicality. Such a stylish tenor. The only issue is I just don't actually like the sound of his voice. It's not his problem, it's my problem. Judging from the loud ovation he got I was obviously alone.
|Adrian Noble's production, photo @ Ken Howard|
I really like Adrian Noble's 2007 production. Despite some nonsensical moments (the Sleepwalking Scene and the chairs) I find it evocative and effective. I love the dark trees in the background, the falling snow, the raggedy Oliver Twist-inspired costumes for the witches, even the mix-and-match military period where daggers go hand-in-hand with WWI-style rifles.
Three days ago Anna posted on Instagram that "today in the performance I was in a very bad mood." She made a cryptic comment about how too many things in the world are not "perfect." Earlier when Lučić canceled she said "the curse of M is all over us." Tonight if she still felt the production was cursed it didn't show. During curtain calls she waved happily to the audience. Maybe the fifth time is the charm?
ETA: Here is a compilation of the many excellent "Una macchia" renditions over the years I made. Callas, Gencer, Galvany, Verrett, Sass, Dimitrova, Serjan, Monastyrska, Netrebko. All of them I think meet a standard of excellence.