Kennet Opera - Macbeth
15th to 17th November 2012.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
Full-bloodied performances for the 'Scottish opera'
Kennet Opera: Macbeth at the Corn Exchange, on Saturday, November 17
Opera is a fiendishly difficult art form for amateurs to stage, so Kennet Opera is now a professional-amateur mix, with professional expertise in this excellent production where it mattered: in the principal voices, in stage and musical direction, and in costume.
The three most taxing roles were sung by young singers setting out on their professional careers. Baritone Simon Meadows (Macbeth) has a strong, expressive voice, with presence and heft.
Demelza Stafford as Lady Macbeth has vocal and dramatic ability in spades. Dressed in blood red with nails to match, her big voice has agility and range. The first kiss between her and Macbeth showed him emotionally and erotically in her thrall. After Duncan's murder, vicious in her ambition, she 'bloods' him like a hunter at his first kill. Later, they embrace over Duncan's grave.
In Szymon Wach's performance as Banquo one sensed his instinctive distrust of Lady Macbeth. He has a beautiful bass voice, warm, rich and clear, combined with dramatic ability His hanging, grinning corpse was as powerful in death as his presence had been in life.
Guy Edwards was a forceful Macduff, and Anthony Goffart as Malcolm, the doctor (Duncan Powell), Lady in Waiting (Sue Whorton) and lead mercenary John Heywood made the most of their cameo roles.
Macbeth offers plenty of scope for the chorus. In full ensembles they were powerful and affecting, clearly lifted by singing beside fine professional voices, as were the young orchestra, led by musical director Rebecca Berkley, who gave of their best.
Stage director Greg Eldridge had an interesting take on the opera. Forest and castle co-existed within the set, giving a more integral part to the witches' prophecies. No stereotypical cackling hags here; this was a more nuanced interpretation, the witches almost a moral force. Embodiments of the forest, they lay still like leaf litter or crawled insidiously through the action, an ever-present force.
Director of costume Lili Tuttle mixed designs from the 1930/40s with historic touches: military uniforms teamed with Roman plumed helmets and medieval armour; Lady Macbeth dressed for dinner in formal gown and fur cape.