Verdi’s Macbeth, which opens Utah Opera’s 2009 season, is a fiery study of the masculine quest for power, essayed both through the title lead and his zealous wife. In Utah Opera’s new production of one of Verdi’s most compelling works, stage director Stephanie Sundine and soprano Brenda Harris as Lady Macbeth pursue that quest from the get-go and rarely take their foot off the pedal.
Harris’ wife-who-would-be-queen is an unstoppable force, her voice soaring with the relentless zeal and appetite of this starkly driven creature for power. Louis Otey’s Macbeth has little of the deeply flawed nobility that Shakespeare gave his character but never fails to dominate David Gano’s superbly simple yet gorgeously rich and dark backdrops.
At times, moments of tenderness surprise and are all the sweeter for their appearance, most notably when tenor Joshua Kohl’s Macduff sings with exquisite sadness of the loss of his wife and children to the tyrant’s bloodthirsty sword.
If the supernatural aspects of the work— whether it’s the seething mass of three groups of witches or a rubbery cauldron—leave a little to be desired, the true wonder here is the masterful depth of Harris’, Otey’s and Kohl’s performances. At the final dress rehearsal, the cast was rewarded by a wildly enthusiastic standing ovation, suggesting that despite these tough economic times, Utah Opera has another winner on its hands.
In a word: sublime.