West Bay Opera’s “Macbeth” Review – Magnificent

WBO Women’s Chorus (4th act refugee scene), West Bay Opera's Macbeth

West Bay Opera’s All-Verdi 64th season brings Macbeth to the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA.  Attending the February 14th opening, I was moved by the power, beauty and richness of the production. While I was initially puzzled by the inconsistency of the day of love and the brutality of the theme, there was clearly love all elements of this production – a love of opera, music, theatre, and characters bound in a dysfunctional love. The audience that filled the theatre was clearly appreciative.

Maestro Moscovicn and the WBO Orchestra. Onstage, Krassen Karagiozov

I always love to see the West Bay Opera in this intimate and friendly venue.  The welcoming commentary by the company’s General Director, José Luis Moscovich  sets the tone for the opera that follows. Introducing Macbeth with pride, he speculated that after this production, people will be clamoring for tickets to La Traviata

Christina Major and Krassen Karagiozov

Giuseppe Verdi’s tenth opera ( his first based on a Shakespeare’s play of the same name), Macbeth had an Italian and French version.  The Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, was. written for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence and premiered on 14 March 1847. Macbeth was revised and expanded in a French version and given in Paris on 19 April 1865  Shakespeare’s plays provided Verdi with lifelong inspiration including his two final operas, Othello that was used as the basis for Otello (1887) and The Merry Wives of Windsor as the basis for Falstaff (1893).

R to L – Banco (Ben Brady) and Fleanzio (Jinjia Liu)

The story of Macbeth is set in medieval Scotland where Macbeth and his friend Banco, both generals in King Duncan’s army, encounter three witches. The witches’ prophecy is that Macbeth will quickly climb the succession ladder to become king. Though Banco, will never be king himself, he will become the father of kings. Soon messengers arrive with the news that Macbeth has been named Thane of Cawdor, making him next in line in the royal succession (sometime). He tells his wife, and she becomes obsessed with the prospect of becoming queen .  Learning that King Duncan and his entourage will be spending the night at Macbeth’s castle, she proposes to Macbeth that they kill the king in his sleep and dispense with the wait. After Macbeth becomes king, other murders follow, to cover up the original one. Macbeth, the usurper, finds no peace and becomes a tyrant. Lady Macbeth goes insane and dies, and the people of Scotland rise up and defeat the tyrant.  A masterful retelling of the Shakespeare story, Macbeth is an exploration of the human thirst for power, and its consequences. 

Hecate appears to the witches in the ballet scene in the third act

West Bay Opera does the story proud.  The voices were exquisite. Costuming, staging, projections, lighting and sound were spot on.  The orchestra was perfection.  All of the acting, heightened the drama, and but especially that of Krassen Karagiozov as Macbeth. The music was beautiful but there was an almost ironic quality to the liveliness of the music juxtaposed with the tragic actions taking place.  While the cauldron scene with the witches stands out to me, there was so much to enjoy, you will have to see it for yourself. If you are lucky!

Fourth act, chorus of refugees (WBOpera chorus)

Conducted by the company’s General Director, José Luis MoscovichMacbeth (Paris version) was brilliantly stage directed by Ragnar Conde, the Artistic Director of Ensenia Ensamble, Mexico’s premier independent opera company.  The stellar cast features Baritone Krassen Karagiozov (Teatro Regio Parma, National Opera – Sofia) in the title role; the amazing soprano Christina Major (Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires) as Lady Macbeth; baritone Benjamin Brady (current finalist Met Regional auditions) as Banco and tenor Dane Suarez (Sarasota Opera) as Macduff.  Macbeth is presented in the 1865 (Paris) version, without cuts, including the ballet, in collaboration with noted modern dance company project agora of San Francisco and choreographer Kara Davis

JL Moscovic, Photo: Otak Jump

Costumes by Callie Floor; sets by Peter Crompton; lighting design by Steven Mannshardt; video projections by Peter Crompton with technical setup by Frédéric Boulay; makeup design by Lisa Cross; props design by Eric Johnson and sound design by Giselle Lee.

Second act banquet scene. L to R: Macbeth (K Karagiozov), Macduff (seated), Banco’s ghost (Ben Brady), seated next to Macduff, Lady in waiting (D. Rosengaus). and Lady Macbeth (C. Major)

Showtimes: Saturday, February 22, at 8:00 p.m.  Both Sundays, February 16 and February 23, at 2:00 p.m.  The Sunday, February 16 performance followed by a post-performance discussion with the cast and directors seated onstage. 

Where: All performances at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA.

Photos: Otak Jump

Tickets: $35 to $85. Group, senior and student discounts.  

Box Office:  650.424.9999   (PLEASE NOTE: this phone number is our preferred ticket sales information number for calendar listings.) Tickets available online as well:  www.WBOpera.org

More Infowww.WBOpera.org

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