Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

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Review: Gripping Portraits by Eric Owens, Melody Moore in Anne Bogart’s Staging of Verdi’s “Macbeth” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 17, 2015

July 18th, 2015

The Glimmerglass Festival presented director Anne Bogart’s new reconceptualization of Verdi’s “Macbeth”.

The production was the occasion for role debuts by Pennsylvania baritone Eric Owens and Tennessee soprano Melody Moore, both of whom displayed mastery of their roles’ vocal demands and deep insights into the psychological motivations of these formidable characters.

[Below: Lady Macbeth (Melody Moore, right) seeks to shore up the courage of Macbeth (Eric Owens, left) who has just committed regicide; edited image, based on a Dory Schultz photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


As an opera whose key plot points involve supernatural elements – a bevy of witches and a ghost – many productions emphasize the surreal [See, for example, Power Verdi: Stoyanov, Valayre Mesmerizing in Berlin Staatsoper “Macbeth” – April 24, 2009 and Hampson Transcends Quirky “Macbeth” in S. F. – November 18, 2007].

In contrast, Bogart’s production is set in some vaguely familiar authoritarian community of an undefined period in the not too distant past.

Bogart’s setting emphasizes the emotional costs that can accompany the human struggle for power. The supernatural forces emerge as manifestations of the power that Macbeth first craves and then, as “deeds are done”, Macbeth finds these forces to be psychologically crippling.

[Below: Macbeth (Eric Owens, left) and Banquo (Soloman Howard, right); edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Eric Owens as Macbeth

This year has witnessed the role debuts of Owens as both Macbeth and the Dutchman [Review: Fair Weather and a Well-Sung “Flying Dutchman” at Washington National Opera – March 7, 2015].

The two roles display the breadth of Owens’ operatic skills – a large, secure and expressive voice, that enhances Owens’ convincing acting.

[Below: Eric Owens as Macbeth; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Owens’ portrait of the tormented Macbeth, whose mental breakdown begins at the moment he slays King Duncan, is extraordinary – infusing into the role the spirit of the Italian verismo style of dramatic singing that emerged at the 19th century’s end.

Owens’ role was augmented by the inclusion of an aria that Macbeth sings in the original 1847 version of the opera that Verdi discarded when he extensively revised the opera in 1865. Although one does not expect the restoration of this banished aria to become a 21st century performance tradition, it was fascinating hearing its sympathetic delivery by Owens.

Melody Moore as Lady Macbeth

The role of Lady Macbeth is notoriously difficult, and has proven to be a disastrous experience for more than one famous soprano of the past. Melody Moore has taken on this treacherous role early in her career.

Moore displayed how the part can and should be sung – through her control, vibrant coloratura (with trill), beautifully sung duets with Owens’ Macbeth, and vocal power to project the Lady’s determined support for Macbeth’s ambitions, wherever they might lead her.

[Below: Melody Moore as Lady Macbeth; edited image, based on a Dory Schultz photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


The most famous episode in the opera, the Lady’s Sleepwalking scene (brilliantly staged by Bogart), was performed with distinction, heralding her as a Lady Macbeth of whom the world of opera should take notice.

Soloman Howard as Banquo

The Banquo was District of Columbia basso Soloman Howard. Like Owens and Moore, possessing a large dramatic voice, he eloquently dispatched Banquo’s great basso cantante aria to his imperilled child, Fleance.

[Below: Soloman Howard as Banquo; edited image, based on a Dory Schultz photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Howard’s career, advanced by the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists program associated with the Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera, is in ascendancy. At the 2015 Glimmerglass Festival, Howard demonstrates his breadth of talent by alternating the roles of Banquo with Sarastro in Mozart’s “Magic Flute”

Anne Bogart’s Staging of the Women of Prophecy

Bogart’s staging of Verdi’s version of the Bard’s witches was ingenious.

Twelve women (drawn from the Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists) donning mid-20th century coats and accoutrements performed as the witches and then would appear throughout the opera, sometimes dressed as the Macbeths’ household servants, party guests or as hallucinatory companions of the sleepwalking Lady.

[Below: The women of prophecy gather; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Other Cast and Crew

Michael Brandenburg was an impressive Macduff, singing the character’s principal aria stylishly. He and the Malcolm of Marco D. Cammarota memorably sang the rousing anthems of the victorious troops that defeat Macbeth at opera’s end.

Mithra Mastropierro was the Lady-in-waiting and Nathan Milholin was the Doctor, Hunter Enoch the Herald and Derrell Acon the Assassin. Rhys Lloyd Tlbot, Vanessa Becerra and Jasimine Habersham were the Apparitions.

Joseph Colaneri conducted brilliantly, and was the advocate for the interpolated aria from the opera’s original version.

James Schuette designed the scenery, and shared costume designing duties with Beth Goldenberg. Robert Wierzel designed the lighting.


I recommend the production and cast of the Glimmerglass Festival “Macbeth” enthusiastically, both for the veteran opera-goer and the person new to opera.


For my previous reviews of Anne Bogart productions, see: Costa-Jackson, Diegel, Matanovic and Simpson Excel in Glimmerglass Opera’s “Carmen” – August 13, 2011 and Legend Making at the Kennedy Center: Angela Meade’s First Norma – Washington National Opera, March 9, 2013.

See also: Rising Stars: An Interview with Melody Moore.

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