This is shorter, no-frills Opera as Cinema than the Met HD supplies: without long intermissions, star interviews and audience preludes and postludes from Lincoln Center, it’s almost an hour shorter.
By Helen Epstein
The Met HD is no longer the only virtual opera house in town. Coolidge Corner Theatre has launched its own 2011/2012 Europe’s Grand Operas season. Screenings of current opera productions from the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala in Milan take place at 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, which has its advantages if you can deal with operatic intensity early in the day. The upside is that if you don’t live within walking distance of Coolidge Corner, you can actually get there without the usual traffic back-ups and easily find a place to park. This is shorter, no-frills Opera as Cinema than the Met HD supplies: without long intermissions, star interviews, and audience preludes and postludes from Lincoln Center, it’s almost an hour shorter.
Saturday’s opera was a stunning, cinematic view of the Royal Opera House’s (ROH’s) blood-soaked and brilliant staging of Verdi’s Macbeth by director Phyllida Lloyd. Originally produced in 2006, this 2011 revival starred the subtle and multi-talented Simon Keenlyside making his debut as the ambivalent murderer and Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska as his cold-bloodedly ambitious and primitive wife. Both have the requisite voices for their roles, but camera close-ups demand more of singers these days, and these two deliver psychological drama in spades. My party of opera-goers could not take their eyes off either one of them for a second.
Verdi’s Macbeth takes Shakespeare’s trio of witches and transforms them into a red-turbaned Greek chorus that drive the action of the opera. Spooky and blood-curdling, their mono-brows making up for the beards that are mentioned in the libretto but lacking in this production, the witches pull all the strings in this curious blend of often lilting, Italian music and dour, Scottish story. Ably conducted by ROH Music Director Antonio Pappano, the sprightly, English chorus and orchestra never seemed to miss a beat. The production team of designers Anthony Ward and Paule Constable collaborated on sets and costumes whose white, red, and black were shadowed and illuminated in a striking sequence of tableaux. A deeply impressive aural and visual experience I will not soon forget.
Next up is the La Scala production of Don Giovanni with Daniel Barenboim conducting. I’m betting that despite the early hour, tickets will go fast.
Helen Epstein is the translator of Acting in Terezin and the author of Joe Papp and other work on Kindle.