The scene is set in… well, nowhere really. This English written, Italian composed and Scottish set play/opera in this production is placed in a timeless and homeless dwelling of frightfully occupied blank space. The story is still the classic Shakespeare and the setting is still alluded to Scotland in the libretto, but visually one feels more like the audience has been transported to Italy if anything.
The vocal talent in this production is incredible. Across the board, the singers were extremely strong and skilled. Gordon Hawkins, playing Macbeth, is an extremely powerful Baritone. However, his stage presence was non-existent. His still movements or lack thereof are very distracting and irritating. Andrea Gruber’s performance as Lady Macbeth is also wanting of some control. Vocally, she is a very powerful singing, albeit rather shrill and standoutish in the ensemble times. Her twitching at the end of every high note or song is also very overacted and distracting. The highlight of the vocal performance is clearly and undeniably Joseph Calleja as Macduff. His breathtaking tenor is captivating and his stage presence is phenomenal. His portrayal of Macduff’s pain at losing his children is clearly shown and felt by all. His high notes are not too high or harsh, but are appropriate and powerful. The rest of the cast is also extremely impressive.
Visually, the actors and singers were nearly upstaged by the lighting and set. Chris Akerlind’s lighting shows exactly why he was awarded the Tony for Light in the Piazza. The slow fades and color use is spectacular. The use of shadows in such an open space is magnificently impressive. One almost forgets how open the space is when the shadows cast are as distinct as they are. Bobby Israel’s set is the single most impressive piece of this production. The plain white walls and use of mechanical doors and opening hatch create a continuously morphable world in which this timeless production can be housed. The sleepwalking scene, though not overly impressive vocally or musically is stunning when the walls begin to bleed as Lady Macbeth recites her heinous crimes. There are many confusing aspects to the attire, however. Even though I know the purpose of the wedding and funeral dresses, I could not bring myself to accept the use of them. They seemed completely out of place and awkward. Otherwise, the uniforms and combined Italian, Scottish and non-specific costumes work very well.
The direction of this production is very well-thought out and precise. There are aspects of the direction that do not fit, however. For example, the killing of Macbeth at the finale by Macduff is extremely poorly done. To have Macduff shoot Macbeth when he’s already down is totally inappropriate.
Overall, this is a good show. It’s nothing that will rank in my personal favorites of all time; however it is a good show. If for nothing else, it is worth seeing simply to hear the beautiful orchestration and the powerful music of Verdi and witness the incredible design talent of Bobby Israel and lighting of Chris Akerlind.