Interesting opera review… I’m a little put off with Lady Macbeth being described as a Succubi…
Opera at the movie theater? Met your bottom dollar!
By Jed Gottlieb
Even opera fans need a miracle once in a while.
As I enter New York’s Metropolitan Opera live-via-satellite broadcast of Verdi’s “Macbeth” at Boston’s Regal Fenway Stadium movie theater Saturday, I’m waylaid by a smartly dressed, middle-aged woman.
“Are you going to the opera?” she asks.
“Do you have an extra ticket? I have the money right here.”
She’s not as anxious as an addict, but she’s not far from it.
The second in the Met’s series of operas beamed live in high-definition to theaters worldwide – next up at Regal Fenway and other cineplexes is Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” on Feb. 16 – “Macbeth” is a smash. Not only a sellout, but 20 minutes before the 1:30 p.m. show the theater is 90 percent full of similarly smartly dressed boomers and seniors scrambling for the best seats.
And no one seems to be here for the novelty – scant few munch popcorn or slurp Cokes. No one is daunted by the idea of paying $22 for four hours of Shakespearean tragedy sung in Italian (thankfully with English subtitles). No one but me.
I’m no idiot. Ive got more Miles Davis than Motley Crue albums and happily read Cormac McCarthy between issues of Rolling Stone. But I expect an afternoon of Verdi doing the Bard will be an academic effort. I’m wrong.
Operas were the blockbusters of their day. “Aida” was the cultural equivalent of “Lord of the Rings”: lavish spectacle meant to thrill and entertain. And this is what “Macbeth” is on the big screen.
Close-ups and cross-cuts give the performance a sweeping cinematic and primeval, visceral feel aided by the stars’ titanic stature. Zeljko Lucic’s Macbeth and Dimitri Pitta’s Macduff are beefy beasts with thundering, rumbling voices and imposing stage gravitas. Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth is busty, sexy succubus, a Rubenesque femme fatale with a wicked streak that would make Hannibal Lecter queasy and a voice as histrionic and virtuosic as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.
But between Guleghina’s scheming and Lucic’s guilt-induced delusions, during set changes and intermission, the Met cut to scenes of stagehands mopping fake blood and interview segments that ruin the flow. The Met thinks it’s giving fans something special but seeing the evil incarnate Lady Macbeth waving to her real-life son shatters the suspension of disbelief upon which opera desperately depends.
“Macbeth” was still a success. Such talents as Guleghina, Lucic and Pittas, talents that make opera enjoyable for a plebian like me, transcend backstage indiscretions. The Met and its aggressive new marketing campaign – beyond the high-def theater broadcasts it’s airing performances on Sirius satellite radio, its Web site and showing them for free in New York public schools – works. I’m sufficiently hooked and the capacity crowd around me is thrilled. Maybe it’s not the next “Lord of the Rings,” but with appeal this broad, and pre-show fans in search of scalpers, opera’s ready to bust out beyond the bourgeoisie.
As an aside, here is an image of the actress in question Maria Guleghina from a performance of Macbeth in 1996: