Lyric Opera Presents MACBETH Review — Dark and Darker Still

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From the swirl of soprano foreboding, three children moving like automatons take center stage to perform a ritual baby killing. They raise a dagger high above head and repeatedly bring it down in long, purposeful strokes to kill and then kill some more.

Creepy as this necromancy moment would be at any time, this scene is staged circa now, a time when pundits galore outside Lyric’s grand opera hall are likening the anti-vaxxers who sometimes seem to rule our fates as a death cult. It’s with those sensibilities in the air that Lyric’s program greets you with a decoration of a skull wearing a military helmet crowned with thorns, like Macbeth’s sleepless bed. The proscenium curtain that greets us and keeps our focus in between scene changes shows a shell of a church drawn in Goya black, that later, when the overture begins, seems a tad alit to highlight the unnatural blood red hues in the sky.

Lyric Opera Creates an Unusual Setting

It is this church setting that is modified only slightly for the entire opera. It could have been bombed not so long ago. We feel that especially in the final battle-weary scenes when the moving trees seem to encroach this desecrated church with fire. Even before the witch chorus fills the pews in the opener, and long before the vivid Witch’s Sabbath re-enactment after intermission, the dark, dark, dark and darker still set design telegraphs the emphasis on desecration in this re-telling of the classic Shakespeare tale. Shadows move in and out throughout. While Verdi’s score might at times strike you also as being more light-hearted than the libretto suggests, the visual of dark, dark, dark and darker still never lets up.

After 18-months of a dark stage, Macbeth is quite the reminder of just how grand opera voices can be — with ample chorus parts and rock star soloists befitting a season opener. After the witches’ opening chorus, two bass baritones, Macbeth and Banquo, on bended knee, move us from the visual dark to its low register aural equivalent. Sondra Radvanovsky later takes center stage as Lady Macbeth, with a voice, like her character, that seems to say I have power. Her posture and gestures command attention, amplifying the narrative every time she is on stage, in this writer’s view.

Later, it’s no wonder that Joshua Guerrero’s sweet tenor voice as Macduff is a clear audience favorite. It is the sound of a ray of light we thirst for — having been primed our entire lives to couple darkness with light. His aria struck this writer as like a prayer, reminding that even in a blood-soaked battlefield, we can nourish hope that there will be an antidote to the miserable darkness of runaway power lust at the heart of this tale, just like so many of today’s headlines.

Because Shakespeare’s Macbeth is so well-known, we can follow the action and take in the spectacle with nary a passing glance at the program book synopsis. It’s one of many reasons why Lyric’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth is likely a good match for both opera diehard and newbie alike.


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September 30, 2021 7 PM
October 3 and October 6, 2021 2 PM
October 9, 2021 7:30 PM


Lyric Opera House
20 North Wacker
Chicago, Il




For tickets and more information visit the Lyric Opera website.

Macbeth: Craig Colclough
Lady Macbeth: Sondra Radvanovsky
Macduff: Joshua Guerrero
Banquo: Christian van Horn
Malcolm: Matthew Vickers
Lady in Waiting: Mathilda Edge
Doctor: Rivers Hawkins
Assassin/First Apparition: Anthony Reed
Second Apparition: Maria Novella Malfatti
Third Apparition: Denis Vélez

Conductor: Enrique Mazziola
Director: Sir David McVicar
Set Designer: John MacFarlane
Lighting Designer: David Finn
Costume Designer: Moritz Junge
Chorus Master: Michael Black
Choreographer: Andrew George
Wigmaster & Makeup Designer: Sarah Hatten
Associate Director: Leah Hausman

Photos:  Ken Howard

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

This story has been added to the Picture This Post roundup article on OPERAS WE LOVE.
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Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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