Post-Sars Macbeth a tragic victory
Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
For a production put together in just several months because of the Sars outbreak, opera director Lo King-man's production of Verdi's Macbeth, could be considered a victory, with its effective staging and competent musical performances.
Gary Simpson's Macbeth and Xiuwei Sung's Lady Macbeth were ordinary humans who were propelled and destroyed by greed and ambition. Both Simpson and Sun were vocally accomplished. Sun, in particular, gave a committed performance of rich facial expressions and fluent singing. Her Lady Macbeth steeled herself against her guilty conscience until body and soul could not bear anymore. Sun rendered the famous sleep-walking scene commendably.
Haojiang Tian's Banquo appeared at first a little stiff - the same could be said of some of the other cast members' acting - and thinly voiced, but did improve much. Luigi Frattola gave a hearfelt aria of lamentation and vengeance in act IV in his role as Macduff. The chorus' portrayal of the witches as eerily girlish was effective, although their singing was sometimes marred by lapses in intonation.
Conductor David Stern drew an organic, pulsating sound from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, although more rhythmic drive and rigour would be desirable.
Some of the most memorable aspects of the production must be attributed to Lo King-man. For example, the set design of the non-human world of the witches' cave was strangely realistic, while that of Macbeth's castle was reduced to a couple stairways, barren cliff face-like walls, and a translucent backdrop screen that glowed with blood red lighting. The timeless world of prophesying witches was more real than the physical, transient world of greed and murder - Lo's message was insightful.