Anna on Fire – Lady Macbeth at the Met – Idiots at the Opera

Sure, I know the name of the opera is Macbeth, but last night it might as well have been Lady Macbeth because Anna Netrebko was the show.

Her voice sounded weightier, smokier, harsher at times but no less beautiful than in those bel canto roles she is famous for. Her body too has changed. She might not fit that red dress in Willy Decker’s production of La Traviata so well, but she was super voluptuous – ogle-worthy.

When she sings her first aria, in a neglige on her bed, it was thrilling not only to listen to the sound of her voice, but also to anticipate a wardrobe malfunction as she writhed and wriggled. I caught no accidental boobage, but don’t ask me for details about the libretto, I never took my binoculars down long enough to read the subtitles.

Aside from the physical presence and the pipes, how was she? It was not a subtle performance, but it was a great one. Riveting. Her Lady Macbeth is rife with anger, frustration, and an absolute lust for power that eventually overwhelms her.

Zeljko Lucic in the title role brought more vocal and dramatic nuance. His final aria showed Macbeth not as a villain and tyrant – but as a man coming to grips with his own folly and acknowledging the lives he’s ruined, including his own. We’d seen Lucic as Rigoletto in the “rat-pack” production and hadn’t been nearly as impressed. While his style and approach are entirely different from Netrebko’s, they worked amazingly well together.

Rene Pape was dignified as Banquo, and tenor Joseph Calleja heroic and noble as Macduff – and God knows this tale of royal madness needs a hero.

The Met chorus was its usual brand of awesome, and conductor Fabio Luisi brought out the absolute beauty of the score.

As for the production by Adrian Noble, while the program notes still set it in Scotland, the feel was Italy. The sets and dress seem to indicate the WWII era. The scene where Banquo was killed was visually stunning and looked like a Sicilian blood-feud. Later, with the refugees singing of their oppressed homeland, it could have been almost any modern conflict – Iraq or Syria to name two. It worked well, but I have one nit to pick. The witches – and there was a stage full – more than in the play – were dressed as what exactly? I couldn’t figure it out. They wore hats and shabby coats. Some had glasses. They looked disheveled and like they’d seen better days. Were they a comment on the aging Met audience? Ladies who lunch? They all carried handbags that seemed double as talismans or possibly weapons. At one point there were lights coming out of the open bags like in that suitcase stolen from Marcellus Wallace. They reminded me more of Max Bialystock’s investors than Shakespeare’s weird sisters.

There are only three more performances left, including a live in HD. As of this writing, there are still some seats — mostly in the rear orchestra. The “cheap seats” appear to be gone, but you can always try your luck with the lottery or standing room.

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One thought on “Anna on Fire – Lady Macbeth at the Met – Idiots at the Opera

  1. I just saw the HD broadcast. The sound was certainly not the same as being there, but easier for me to go 2 miles to a movie theater than 240 to NYC. I thought Anna Netrebko’s performance was spectacular. I especially the way she looked and sounded so mean, nasty and ruthless despite the great singing. I’m glad I looked on your blog before e-mailing to see if you had seen this.

    I also was pretty much expecting a wardrobe malfunction, and wondering what was next when it happened.

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