By comic artist Kate Beaton:
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The swinging lamp and the feeling of urgency it provides reminded me of one other thing that I noticed about this opera while watching this production. This may be just me, but the whole thing seems to go by very quickly. I don’t mean simply in the sense that it’s a high-quality performance of entertaining music and as a result the time passes easily. I mean that at several points I was thinking – we’re here already? They’re already killing Duncan? And now Lady Macbeth is dead? And now it’s over?
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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.
I was just reading the Wikipedia article about Verdi’s Macbeth which quotes a critic from the 1960s describing “or tutti sorgete” as a “barnstorming martial cabaletta.” It’s one of the unofficial policies of this blog to work in the word “barnstorming” whenever possible, so there at least is one box I can tick off for this week.
I was thinking about Verdi’s Macbeth. Verdi really liked Shakespeare. Sometimes this translated into wonderful opera – and sometimes it translated into pretty good but sometimes somewhat weird opera. Macbeth falls into the latter category for me. It was among Verdi’s earlier works, so that is part of what is going on with it. But what I notice most about it whenever I hear it is that sometimes the music appears to part ways with the text.
Here is Iano Tamar singing “Vieni, t’affreta . . .Or tutti sorgete” from Act and “Perché mi sfuggi . . . Trionfai secure alfina” from Act II. Often the next thing after the conversation in “Perche mi sfuggi” is “la luce langue” but here we get a different version. I swear I am not flogging Iano Tamar – this is what came up when I tried to find a video that had this in it.
I usually enjoy “Or tutti sorgete” because this is an aria about summoning the powers of hell, but if you didn’t know that going in you might not guess that this is what it is about. It has a lovely little melodic line that seems to skip along very cheerfully and again, if I were going to summon the powers of darkness, I am not sure that this is precisely how I would do it. But I guess it worked for Lady Macbeth, right?