Vocalist - Baritone
Acclaim
Kamikaze Soprano, Child Witches Stir Disgusting New `Macbeth'
This is a handout, released to the media on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008 of Zeljko Lucic as Macbeth and Nadja Michael as Lady Macbeth in the opera Macbeth staged by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany. Martin Kusej's new "Macbeth" for the Bavarian State Opera enjoyed a scandalous premiere last night.
This is a handout, released to the media on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008 of Zeljko Lucic as Macbeth and Nadja Michael as Lady Macbeth in the opera Macbeth staged by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany. Martin Kusej's new "Macbeth" for the Bavarian State Opera enjoyed a scandalous premiere last night.
Bavarian State Opera via Bloomberg News
Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The crowd of naked supernumeraries on stage elicited scant reaction from the audience at the premiere of Verdi's ``Macbeth'' in Munich last night.

A display of bare breasts also drew nothing but a satirical ``Bravi!'' and a gust of snickers. Then the cast began urinating in unison and the booing began in earnest.

Martin Kusej's new and sometimes powerful ``Macbeth'' production is diminished by such tasteless shenanigans, and it had a predictably loud opening at the Bavarian State Opera.

There were gouts of fake blood, even more murders than prescribed by Shakespeare, evil child sorcerers and the obligatory interpolated metrosexual orgy scenes. How can you stage an opera in central Europe today without a gratuitous lesbian grope?

``Macbeth'' is, after all, full of emotional extremes, broken taboos, black magic and violence. But ``Macbeth'' really isn't a piece full of collective golden showers, and even though you didn't have to look hard to see the rubber bags and tubes shoved up the knickers of the performers, the passing of water in the third act proved more than the Munich audience could bear.

Grubby Undies

Large numbers of good-looking supernumeraries wearing nothing but underwear have become the hallmark of Kusej's opera productions. The undergarments for this ``Macbeth'' (costumes: Werner Fritz) are grubbier than the lingerie he used for his 2002 ``Don Giovanni'' in Salzburg. That's fair enough. Clambering over the mounds of human skulls (sets: Martin Zehetgruber) that form this nightmare landscape must be dirty work.

More striking than the expanses of naked flesh are the diminutive witches. Kusej uses child supernumeraries dressed as solemn little adults to play the witches, with the singers invisible in the wings. The effect is terribly David Lynch. They are the predicted lineage that will rule in his stead, they are Herod's murdered babes, they are an undead, mute accusation and the amoral instigators of all Macbeth's bloody deeds of ambition.

Equally good is the detailed and committed acting that Kusej draws from the main protagonists, none more than Nadja Michael's show-stopping Lady Macbeth. This is a woman who doesn't want her husband's blood-smeared hands on her tiny cocktail dress, who pauses to tuck her blonde hair behind her ears before stooping to shove Banquo's severed head up her skirt, a singer who can literally hang from the chandelier without missing a beat.

Supermodel Banshee

Michael, though announced as indisposed, delivers a performance of animal power and kamikaze commitment. She looks like a supermodel and sings like a banshee. The sound may be a matter of taste -- ever since she switched to the soprano repertoire, her vibrato has had a life of its own -- but you can't argue with the total impact. This is a Lady Macbeth to die for.

Her husband does, of course, though only after he has taken most of the cast with him. Zeljko Lucic is a bold, savage Macbeth who sings with solidity and detail. He heads up a formidable cast of men, all of whom sing well. Fabrizio Mercurio wins special applause for a passionate account of Macduff's short Act 4 aria, and Roberto Scandiuzzi's Banquo is rightly celebrated.

On the podium, Nicola Luisotti keeps the pace brisk and the mood thrilling. He also shapes the melodic lines with care and listens to his singers. Choir and orchestra are excellent. In all, if you can overlook Kusej's lapses in taste, this is one of the best ``Macbeth'' productions on the circuit.

Rating: ****
Shirley Apthorp, Bloomberg
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