Macbeth Opera Review – A Grand Return to the Lyric Stage

Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Macbeth"

A new production of Verdi’s powerful opera, Macbeth, debuted on Friday evening, September 17th, 2021. This particular production was a grand event filled with rousing jubilation, as it was the Lyric Opera’s reopening to the public, the first in 18 months following the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Speeches from the Lyric’s president, general director and CEO, Anthony Freud, and chair, Sylvia Neil, were followed by an almost 10 minute round of applause to celebrate the return to live theater. 

Sondra Radvanovsky as Lady Macbeth and Craig Colclough as Macbeth

Macbeth is a musical and visual masterpiece that nurtures all of the senses. The singing and performers, set and stage design, lighting, costumes and Verdi’s powerful, haunting score all combine to offer the audience a true theatrical treat. Macbeth (Craig Colclough) resorts to murder, madness and revenge to secure his quest to the throne, with his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Sondra Radvanovsky), at his side, goading him along to kill King Duncan after hearing the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become king. 

Sondra Radvanovsky as Lady Macbeth and the company of Macbeth

It has been over 400 years since William Shakespeare’s tragic play debuted, and yet the theme and message still leave a powerful impact on the world: absolute power often leads to corruption. Radvanovsky’s portrayal as Lady Macbeth is complete with her beautiful soprano vocals and fiery acting. Debuting at the Lyric, Colclough, with his rich bass-baritone voice, drew me in right away with his strong and commanding performance as Macbeth, as a flawed man who leads himself to being crowned king, and eventually to his own downfall. 

Christian Van Horn as Banquo

Other outstanding performances included bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Macbeth’s suspicious rival, Banquo, and tenor Joshua Guerrero as Macduff, whose angelic vocals mourn and lament his wife and children, who were murdered by Macbeth. Then there was, of course, the excellent supporting ensemble, which included a spooky yet talented chorus of witches (and children) who prophesied Macbath’s downward spiral and path of self destruction. The witches’ scenes during the opera were some of my favorite!

Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus

What a visually impressive opera! Macbeth mesmerized with the staging, set and lighting design. Not only was the Lyric stage and theater completely refurbished, but everything was simplistic and extremely detailed in its striking imagery. The set perfectly matched the mood of the dark story throughout. The use of the lighting for the opera caught me and my guest off guard with how realistic and beautiful it was in contrast to the night time scenery. The lightning was one of the highlights of the overall show, which blended and transitioned throughout each scene with warm and cold lighting. This was evident with such scenes as the witches gathering together in the third act to brew a potion in a cauldron over a heated flame, dancing around in circles chanting a spell, or when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo during the banquet.

Christian Van Horn as Banquo and Craig Colclough as Macbeth

When Macbeth sees the ghost in the banquet, just the transition between warm lighting and cold lighting was truly beautiful. There was also the witches’ brew in the third act with the fire and cauldron.

Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus

Overall, Macbeth commanded an incredible production and my guest and I did not want the evening to end. It was beyond wonderful to finally be back at the Lyric after 18 long months, and I noticed right away that the entire audience, the performers, and the orchestra, were all excited and genuinely happy to come together under the same roof. What a start to the new Lyric Opera season-Macbeth is not to be missed!

Photos: Ken Howard

For more information on Macbeth, or to get tickets, visit the Lyric Opera website.

For more information about Lyric’s Audience Vaccination Policy, please visit this link.

*With its reopening, the Lyric Opera of Chicago takes its audience members’ health and safety as a top priority. All audience members are required to provide a valid photo ID and proof of full vaccination against the COVID-19 virus in order to enter the Lyric Opera House. Full vaccination status occurs two weeks after a CDC-recommended regimen of vaccination. Additionally, facial masks, worn properly over the nose and mouth, are required for all patrons for the duration of their time in the opera house.

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