"When I wake up in the morning, I can't wait to run to rehearsals. Don't laugh," Maria Guleghina told The New York Times about working with director Adrian Noble on the new staging of Verdi's Macbeth opening this evening at the Metropolitan Opera. "He gives me an idea. I try it many ways. We change things, and then choose what is most interesting."
Noble has plenty of familiarity with Verdi's source material, of course, having been artistic director of Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company from 1990 to 2003. He's no stranger to opera, either: he has staged four of them previously, one of those being the renowned 2000 Aix-en-Provence Festival production of Monteverdi's Return of Ulysses with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants. ("It was one of those productions that wouldn't go away, he told Playbill. Virtually there was a world tour ...")
"For me, it is like the Verdi opera is a kind of a bridge between Shakespeare's play and our era," says Noble, who has set this production (of which we offer photos below) in the years after World War II. "And the play's action emerges out of a civil war. They're not fighting a foreign power ... it tells the story of a leader in a civil war, a star general who was a brilliant soldier and hugely popular who becomes the leader of his country, and that leader becomes the oppressor of his people. And there's all that collateral damage of thousands of refugees pouring over the English border ... And leaders like that are just as prevalent today, like Ceausescu."
Baritone Zeljko Lucic sings the role of the murderous Thane, with soprano Guleghina as his bloodstained Lady, tenor Dimitri Pittas as Macduff and bass John Relyea as Banquo at the first four performances, through November 3. For three dates of a four-date run in January, baritone Lado Ataneli (Macbeth) and tenor Roberto Aronica (Macduff) join Guleghina and Relyea; for the fourth date, January 15, Pittas returns as Macduff and Andrea Gruber takes over Lady Macbeth. Gruber returns for the final three performances of Macbeth this season, May 9-17, with baritone Carlos Álvarez as Macbeth, tenor Joseph Calleja as Macduff and bass René Pape as Banquo. Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine conducts all performances.
"This is a modern production," said Guleghina to the Times, "but done with respect, intelligence, study, preparation, heart, love, soul. Not like in Germany."