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2015-09 Royal Opera House on tour in Japan, Macbeth


Royal Opera House on tour in Japan

Composer : Guiseppe Verdi
Librettist : Piave after Shakespeare’s tragedy
Venue and Dates : Tokyo Bunka Kaikan   12 (3pm), 15 (3pm), 18 (6.30pm) and 21 (1:30pm) September 2015
Conductor : Antonio Pappano
Production :
Phyllida Lloyd
Performers :
Macbeth: Simon Keenlyside
Banquo: Raymond Aceto
Lady Macbeth: Liudmyla Monastyrska
Macduff: Teodor Ilincai
Malcolm: Samuel Sakker
Lady-in-waiting: Anush Hovhannisyan
Doctor: Jihoon Kim

Photo Gallery


Personal impression

The ROH Japan tour, particularly Macbeth, was supposed to be one of my music highlights in 2015, and it turned out so! I had seen this production at ROH Covent Garden in 2011, and liked it very much since it was a traditional, but intense drama as the straight play, apart from the fact that Simon sang Macbeth.
I raised expectations for Macbeth in Tokyo since the casts this year were the same as in London, except for Macduff. Besides, it was the 1st time Simon would sing a full opera after almost 9-month absence from the theatre. I have to admit, however, that I had a slight fear that he still had some problems and would not be strong enough even after his confirmation of coming to Japan.
As it started, we saw more intense, focused Shakespeare drama with superb music than in 2011. Once the music started, we the audience were immersed in the mysterious medieval world.
It seems that Maestro and Simon have made up a strategy to manage with the Act 1 & 2 by cautiously singing and have a peak moment in the Act 4. It worked perfectly, and after talking to the friends and people in the theatre, who saw Simon for the first time, I found that they all thought that the cautious singing was intended for characterization of undersized Macbeth. His acting technique also served the strategy well. Although I was very happy to see him back on the stage on the 1st day, I found the last performance today simply awesome, much better than on other days. Sounding great as before, it seemed that he was getting back to himself.
Even more amazingly, L Monastyrska has much improved in acting and singing in ensemble. Her matured acting made her confrontation with Macbeth=Simon more interesting to see, and we clearly saw how this couple’s relationship became disrupted as the plot developed. It seemed to me that she has also learned that expressively singing in piano could be more touching than at full-throttle. Her first aria was powerfully resonant in the entire hall, but her sleepwalking scene was much more impressed although she sang mostly in piano.
Last but not least, without Maestro Pappano, this run of Macbeth would not have been as thrilling as this; he skillfully led the orchestra to create the dramatic music while supporting the singers. Thank you, Maestro!


Sound bites

Two online reviews from Japanese newspapers (in Japanese):


Mainichi (Viewed on the 18 September performance)

New insight to Lady Macbeth interpretation

The Macbeth of the ROH tour in Japan highlighted the psychological characterization of the protagonists, rather than the dramatic moments of the piece.

Verdi described the instance of the repeated crimes, conducted by Macbeth and his Lady for the throne, while showing the state of their minds in details, and in this production, the staging direction and singer’s unique expression enhanced the psychological descriptions.

Instead of authoritative, strong tone usually heard in the opera, Monastyrska, singing Lady Macbeth, effectively used a soft, sotto voce to encourage Macbeth to do the killing, making Lady look chillier and more sensual.  In this way, she also delivered Lady’s feeling of euphoria or flutter of her mind as well as her desire to keep Macbeth attracted to and intimidated by her.

Such a new aspect of the Lady surely expanded the interpretation of this opera.  The bearing and costume of the Scottish people, singing “Patria oppressa”, reminded us of the refugees in the world, and the opera became relevant to the concern of our time.

In addition to Monastyrska’s Lady, Pappano’s musical leadership was impressive as he superbly blended singers’ phrasing and orchestration to make the audience realize the meaning of Verdi’s words, “ Music itself sufficiently expresses the drama”.




Unimpeachable performance

ROH started its tour in Japan on the 12 September with Macbeth, which got the audience in a packed house excited.

The most outstanding singing came from Monastyrska, who dragged the audience in the story with her dramatic singing technique; the way she sung powerful, yet flawless movement from the very low key to the high note and the way she produced the lyrical sound.

Simon Keenlyside, singing a title role, was not to be outdone by his Lady.  He created the arc in his portrayal of Macbeth, from the moment when he whispered “tutto e finito” in the trembling voice after having killed Duncan to the last area “Pieta, rispetto, amore” filled with the sense of loss.  That was a carefully-crafted interpretation befitting a Verdian baritone.

The Phyllida Lloyd’s production was developed decade ago, but it has not lost its lust.  Macbeth and Lady appeared in the golden costumes and the cheap banquet music was heard.  Scottish refugees in the rags and tatters, on the other hand, sung the exquisite chorus “Patria oppressa”.  Such a divergence of the visual and auditory called up an image of witches murmuring mysterious words, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”, in the Shakespeare’s original.

Ongaku no tomo (Friend of Music) November issue  (no online link)

Extract from the magazine’s review of the Royal Opera tour of Japan:

“Simon Keenlyside’s Macbeth was gnawed by anxiety rather than propelled by ambition, and he delicately sang such a worry. Being an excellent actor, he was in his element onstage, showing not only a sense of guilt but also deep fear in his interpretation. The duet of Macbeth and his Lady after killing Duncan was very impressive as it clearly presented their shared apprehensions.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Takako Iwasa June 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

We are looking forward to the Japan Tour of September.
But critics will have to say that you might not come.
Do physical condition is bad?

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