Macbeth reviews

Roger Bing in The Croydon Advertiser, 4 July 2003

Macbeth, one of Verdi’s earlier operas, is perhaps not as well-known as some of the others, and Surrey Opera’s initiative in performing it is to be applauded.

It was a splendid production, well staged, very well sung. The principals were in fine form, but so too was the sizeable chorus, giving full vent to music which possibly was not too familiar to many, all supported by a large orchestra conducted by Jonathan Butcher.

Surrey Opera engaged some fine soloists for the main roles; they were shared, and on Friday Richard Morris and Margo Campbell were the fiendish couple.

He sang with verve and flung himself about the stage in impressive style as life grew blacker and blacker. She had the passion of a devilishly scheming woman, a powerful voice urging her man on to murder, and later a softer, sadder tone as the wretched nightmare takes its toll. Andrew Mayor and Cassandra Manning took the roles on Thursday and Saturday.

The principals were matched by David Soar as Banquo, and Christopher Ovenden as Macduff, who each provided impressive characterisations.

This was a new English version of the opera by Peter Knapp, who also directed and he and Butcher in particular deserve praise for choosing the work and creating it so well.

Compelling Production

Angela Goodall in Words and Music, Sept/ Oct 2003

This was a compelling production of Verdi’s powerful opera, based very closely on Shakespeare’s work.

The stark set on interlinked ramps enabled striking groupings, smooth scene changes and flowing action. It was lit from downstage, casting shadows and silhouettes on the backcloth giving eerie effects especially in the witches’ scenes. The versatile chorus were in turn witches, soldiers, courtiers and dispossessed peasants; they were well directed and made a valuable impact dramatically and musically.

Macbeth (I saw Richard Morris) and Lady Macbeth (Margo Campbell) were not the vocal (or physical) heavyweights sometimes encountered in these roles; but both sang expressively and revealed the torment of their characters as human beings on a doom-laden course rather than simply as monstrous murderers.

David Soar as Banquo and Christopher Ovenden (tenor) as Macduff have the two most lyrical arias in the work and each received well deserved applause. Lucky Surrey Opera to find another tenor of quality, Paul Koelbloed, to sing the minor role of Malcolm.

I feel that Verdi’s music greatly enhances the play and Jonathan Butcher brought out all the sinister aspects as well as the beauties of the score to ensure a performance of great music drama.