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One more thing w/r/t the trees. I should add that these are bare trees. Even in the battle scene near the end, what the soldiers ‘camouflage’ themselves with are not leafy branches, but sticks. Trees and pillars and sticks and things of this kind are often symbols of kingly power. No prizes for guessing why. But in this case there’s a sort of sterility theme going on. Which makes sense. Macbeth gets to be king, but his descendants will not rule. And he’s not a very good king, either. He and his rule are sterile, unnatural, and so on (his wife is also a little unnatural, by the standards of the day). And this is evident, visually, even from the beginning.
One more off-topic observation: one of the odd things I noticed about this opera watching this version of it is that it retains little pieces of the play’s early modern context but without much explanation – for example at one point Macbeth says that someone else had said ‘god preserve us’ or something like that and he wasn’t able to give the appropriate response – being unable to pray, or unable to say God or Jesus’s name is a classic sixteenth/seventeenth-century ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’ moment.
But anyway. I was thinking again about Lady Macbeth’s “barnstorming” cabaletta. You could probably argue that her brindisi in Act II (“si colmi i calici”) is cut from a similar pattern:
I love how the entire party, including Lady Macbeth herself, start dancing along with it. When I started thinking about it, a character who could assist in several murders and then skip along with this is certainly capable of invoking the spirits of hell to the tune of ‘or tutti sorgete’ – there’s a kind of crazy consistency to it.
In general Maria Guleghina is a very Lady Macbeth-y Lady Macbeth. She has been given a slightly alarming manicure, for one thing, but this was more of an added bonus in terms of characterization rather than something intrinsic to the performance, which I thought was really exciting, fingernails or no fingernails. There are a few moments of imprecision – those downward runs in “or tutti sorgete” slide over a few notes here and there – but this falls into the “really, who cares” category given the rest of it. “La luce langue” (where Lady Macbeth waits as darkness falls, knowing that Banquo will soon be murdered) has both moments of quiet ominous intensity as well as suitably big and dramatic climaxes; the sleepwalking scene later is similarly fun, where she seems to make some of the high notes slide around deliberately, to suggest madness.
I also enjoyed the “fatal mia donna!” duet in Act I – in addition to how it sounds, they have a nice visual touch where as Macbeth and his lady make dark plans, a hanging lamp is set swinging back and forth – it adds a kind of visual urgency to go with the music, and the image is picked up again in Lady Macbeth’s mad scene in Act IV, where she again sets the lamp swinging and uses its light to examine her hands for blood. It ties in with the earlier scene really neatly.
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