Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Stop Making Sense

November 25, 2007

Georgina Lukács and Thomas Hampson
Photo: Terrence McCarthy/SFO 2007

It seems unfair to write about San Francisco Opera’s current production of Verdi’s Macbeth at this point. So many have already provided ample commentary on the wilder aspects of the evening from the light box, to the typewriter, to the witches with hula-hoops. What more is there possibly to say? Well how about this, based on last night’s performance I’d say this Macbeth not only sounds great, it’s a whole lot of fun. Sure there are anachronisms galore, and thank god for that. Without them we’d be stuck with another horror like the season opening Samson et Dalila revival. Instead we have a wacky array of red clothed witches of every stripe with props to match, huge day-glo robes for the principals, and lots of green everywhere representing not only Scotland’s verdant countryside, but at times blood and death. Not everything works, but it is always fun to watch. Despite all of General Director David Gockley’s teeth gnashing about “Eurotrash” productions, there is some good news – it appears he’s still got some commitments he hasn’t been able to extract himself or the company from just yet.

Musically, the performance matched the production. Georgina Lukács has taken a lot of hits for her wide vibrato and rightly so. But I actually thought that after the first act things got progressively better for her. Perhaps it was just the fear of being attached to the top of the light box with cliff repelling gear that set her on edge, but her performance was certainly remarkable in its level of commitment. She starts crazy and just gets crazier. I never once doubted her sincerity and while her acting choices tended toward the broad, I thought it worked quite well overall making her death scene more than believable. In this respect, Thomas Hampson, the Macbeth and big star of this production could stand a few lessons from her. His singing was impeccable with a beautiful tone but I found his performance somewhat unengaging in the acting department. He often seemed to be singing to himself more than anyone else onstage or in the audience. Not that he was underpowered, just somewhat preoccupied. The chorus was excellent. They sounded great and they actually had something to do, which they did with great aplomb throughout. The orchestra under Massimo Zanetti also lived up to expectations.

Still, director David Pountney didn’t make it easy on Hampson, giving him oodles of things to deal with including a banquet table filled with fresh graves, death star military costumes, and the tiny lithe female body of the murdered King Duncan to carry around for more seconds than he or anyone else probably felt comfortable with. But, hey that’s show business, folks. The San Francisco Opera’s Macbeth has three more performances next week.



Macbeth made me laugh a lot, I'd have to say the opening was the single most entertaining night I've had at the opera all season. Definitely agree with you about the acting, Lukács was better than Hampson in that regard.
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