MACBETH by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Nicholas Muni, with Pavlo Hunka, Georgina Lukács, Roger Honeywell and Burak Bilgili. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). September 30 and October 5 at 7:30 pm, matinee October 2 at 2 pm. $40-$175, ages 17 and under $18-$88, ages 18 to 29 $18-$29. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you know Shakespeare's Macbeth , you'll be surprised by Giuseppe Verdi 's operatic handling of the story. Notable are the oom-pah-pah melodies seemingly better suited to a dance hall than to a tragic tale of ambition.
But when it's well staged and played - as it is by the Canadian Opera Company , with Richard Bradshaw conducting the orchestra - there's a visceral quality to this story of a Scottish lord and his wife who, tempted by evil, go over to the dark side and are themselves delivered to violence.
Director Nicholas Muni offers a strong take on the material, and he gets invaluable help from set and costume designer Dany Lyne and lighting designer David Finn . Their interpretation of the material begins in a Scotland caught in a rigid social structure - the lords and ladies, dressed in sombre plaids, sit on plastic-covered settees according to a strict social order. When Macbeth starts his reign of terror, the set and costumes gradually become bloodier and bloodier, until the stage is a red river of murder and passion.
Muni and the designers spend as much time on the details as on the broad strokes, creating smooth transitions between scenes. The court ladies, possessed by evil, become the witches and start knitting with red balls of wool. Early on, they're like the mythic Norns, handling the bloody threads of life and fate; later, after Macbeth confirms his move to violence, they throw their wool balls into the air, suggesting an assembly of Eves who've successfully tempted Adam with their red apples.
Later, when the Macbeths are in power, the kingdom becomes party central. Lady Macbeth's banquet gown is the most outrageous plaid creation you've ever seen, and she tops it with a Dolly Parton wig.
The couple's staid settee evolves into the chesterfield equivalent of a white stretch limo.
Most of the cast is strong dramatically as well as vocally. Georgina Lukács isn't afraid to use the occasionally coarsened tone to paint the ambitious, troubled Lady Macbeth, and her final mad scene is seeded early in the show. Roger Honeywell does some of his best work as Macduff, while Burak Bilgili makes a sonorous and sympathetic Banquo.
The chorus, too, under chorus master Sandra Horst , makes a notable contribution, especially after the discovery of Duncan's murder and as a group of refugees.
The one jarring dramatic note is Pavlo Hunka 's Macbeth (he shares the role with Vittorio Vitelli). Hunka has a deep, cavernous voice but little sense of the character or his evolution; anger, remorse, fear all sound the same. He's been great in the COC's Ring cycle, but he loses his dramatic vitality in the Italian repertoire.