The most impressive thing about this 2 DVD set of a live performance of Verdi's 'Macbeth' at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona is the strength of the cast. From top to bottom, the cast is exemplary. It is not, like the Zurich production with Thomas Hampson completely dominating the performance, a one-person show. It is true that Carlos Álvarez, the marvelous Spanish baritone, is outstanding as the title character. But he is very nearly equaled by the rest of the cast. Maria Guleghina, despite a somewhat shaky start in Act I ('Vieni! t'affretta') grows in security and dramatic effectiveness throughout the performance and her Sleepwalking Scene is stunning. Bass-baritone Roberto Scandiuzzi is marvelous, both vocally and dramatically as Banquo; he's truly scary in Act IV. And even more amazing, simply because I didn't know him before, is Marco Berti as Macduff; a fine, stalwart tenor with a ringing top, Berti practically steals the show in the latter acts. Malcolm, sung by tenor Javier Palacios, is marginally less effective, but his final scene, where he is crowned the new King of Scotland is dramatically satisfying. Begoña Alberdi as Lady Macbeth's Lady-in-Waiting reveals a rich contralto and fine stage presence.
The production, by Phyllida Lloyd, was first seen at Covent Garden. Anthony Ward did the sets and costumes. The scenery is minimal, somewhat expressionist and loaded with symbolism. There is red, for 'blood,' everywhere, in this goriest of Verdi's operas; there is a gilded cage that symbolizes the Macbeths' situation, and so on. The costumes are rather generic, not really representing any specific historical period, but they are attractive. None of the setting bothers one the way some updating of operas does; this is not a Eurotrash-ing of the opera, but rather a thoughtful positioning of the drama in a sort of inner landscape, representing the increasingly disordered minds of the two protagonists. Inventive lighting by Paule Constable adds to this effect.
Musical direction is by Bruno Campanella; he gives us a brisk reading and the Liceu orchestra plays well. The chorus, which has a fair amount to do in the opera, is well prepared, both musically and dramatically, and adds to the production.
TT = 164 mins; LPCM Stereo; Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Catalan; Bonus features: A well-done illustrated synopsis (spoken in English), and a cast portrait gallery.