Macbeth baritone, ŽELJKO LUČIĆ
Banquo bass, RENÉ PAPE
Lady Macbeth soprano, ANNA NETREBKO
Macduff tenor, JOSEPH CALLEJA
Malcolm tenor, NOAH BAETGE
Lady-in-waiting soprano, CLAUDIA WAITE
Servant bass, CHRISTOPHER JOB
conductor Fabio Luisi
Anna Netrebko singing Lady Macbeth – making headlines,one superlative after another, sold out house, triumph, sensational success. Well, one has to admit: the woman has guts. She throws herself into this role as if it would be her last one an das if she had nothing to lose. Total risk, no reserves. And she does not cheat or make it easy for her. She really stands up to the challenge and sees eye to eye with the demands of the role. A former Adina, Norina, Manon, Violetta, who now sings Lady Macbeth? In fact she still is a full lyric soprano with god enough agility. With the years the voice has become fuller, but also thicker, more guttural, more heavy handed and less flexible. The voice is MORE guttural (the famous potato in the mouth…) than ever, though she can lighten it up for the first verse of the Brindisi, for example, but it costs her considerable effort to PRODUCE a vocal „bounce“ and elasticity which is not there anymore by nature. The constant oversinging of the upper middle range, where she has her most impressive notes, is starting to take its toll. In „Vieni t´affretta“ and „or tutti sorgete“ already one hears a distinctive wobble. The top of her voice starts to spread under the constant pressure. Though there are no real register brears (yet), she has lost much smoothness and evenness of sound, which, although it had a tendency to sound monotous, she did have during her best years. Too much power, too much oversinging. Instead of putting the emphasis on phrasing and accento, on INTERPRETATION (how embarassing her reading of the letter is…)- as the more clever singers used to do when they strayed outside their natural repertory – she puts ALLl the weight on her voice. Regardless oft he consequences she peppers out the high notes. But where she could really leave marks in her interpretation – think of Callas´ hair-raising „Duncano sarà qui, qui… qui la notte!“ or her „Il Re!“ when the music announces the arrival of Duncano. Yet, there is more to this role than the effective letter scene and the Brindisi: it is not enough to sound well studied and calculated, although she tries hard to sound and look spontanuous. Netrebko does not have the imaginative phrasing and gripping power of Callas in „La luce langue“, where she has to take refuge in scooping and where „a loro un loro un requiem, l´eternità” is far beyond her reach. From „o voluttà del soglio“ on she really is in difficulty and one can hear just how much singing like this costs her voice. The first verse of the Brindisi is good, though the voice sounds hard and driven and the wobble becomes very evident from too much pressure, the second verse, where she adds drama and vocal weight sounds hollow and fake. She also lacks the masterly phrasing of a Margherita Grandi´s in the sleepwalking scene. Take „Arabia intera rimondar sì piccol mano co’ suoi balsami non può.“ or „a letto, a letto… Sfar non puoi la cosa fatta… Batte alcuno!… andiam, Macbetto, non t’accusi il tuo pallor.“ A masterpiece.
Lucic is hailed as THE Verdi baritone of the moment. I do not agree. It seems today we either have intelligent singers like Keenlyside, who do not have the vocal calibre for Verdi or the „bigger“ voices, who just yell and shout Verdi´s music. Lucic, of course, belongs tot he latter category. His entrance was vocally appalling (as was Pape´s). Throaty, tight, more spoken than sung was „due vaticini“. Lucic might not have had his best evening, but if you listen to his 2008 Macbeth from the Met, you hear pretty much the same things – only the voice is a little fresher. The voice has a certain size, but the singer is terribly crude and rough. There were a handful piani which were not bad, but 80% of the opera were shouted and forced – even more so towards the end when he was becoming hoarse. Especially the second encounter with the witches was dissappointing and nothing more than hoarse yelling: „Fuggi, regal fantasma“ and „un terzo, un quarto, …“, „O me perduto“. He tried hard to find a line in „Pietà, rispetto, amore“, which you really CANNOT shout, but his mezza voce went even more back into the throat and is dried out by constant oversinging. His diction is far from polished. The voice has hardly any elasticity, he is having a very hard time to form these big melodic arches since has no flexibility caused by constant forte singing. He also has a hard time increasing the tension and forming a climax, since all he can do is increasing the shouting. Little nuance, no refinement. He is no newcomer to the role and one could expect him to make more of clittle phrases, which can make a difference: „la vita riprendo“, „una chimera“, „immobil terra“, just some of many.
Macduff was Calleja´s debut role in 1997. Compared to his early recordings the voice voice has gained in broadness and has more colour. But it has lost some of its roundness and denseness or concentration. It has grown, but has not become really fuller to the same extent. Also his breath management does not seem to really efficient. He inhales way too much air, but still seems short-breathed and not able to sustain long passages. And he tends to sound breathy: too much air in the voice, too little sostegno and body connection. The voice sounds a little „unclean“. And one really hoped that after some 15 years of career with the time he would have grown as an interpreter – in the sense of „acting with the voice“, phrasing, imagination, accento. His „orrore, orrore, orrore“ („agitatissimo“, the score says…) when he discovers Duncano is murdered sounds all too „well-behaved“, almost schoolboyish. A clear (sometimes too clear) vocal line, never sloppy phrasing, but little drive, little accento, little passion. The aria was not bad, but excellent either. Beautiful line, good legato, nicely sung, but no vocal authority, little imaginative singing. How one wishes for just a tiny portamento here and there…. But where others struggle, he is highly reliable in the concertato and ensemble scenes, effortlessly managing Macduff´s taxing tessitura there.
Pape had a dreadful start, sounding dry and throaty and in difficulty in the higher register. The aria itself was not bad actually. The low register sounds full and compact.
Noah Baetge´s Macduff was good, Claudia Waite, the lady-in-waiting, had a dreadful wobble. The MET´s choir sounded well studied, although the men („Sparve il sol…“) sounded much better and more dense and compact than the women. The costumes – especially in the banquet scene were a strange mix and match – but as almost always the MET wants to please. And although this production is neither really coherent nor compelling one it is not „disturbing“ either.
Ivan Petroff Maggio Musicale 1951 (Gui)
Lucic Met 2008