When Verdi and Shakespeare combine their respective talents in a dramatic work, the result has to be a masterpiece, right?
Though the two great men lived in different centuries, the 19th century Italian opera composer was inspired by the Bard’s play Macbeth to write one of the most powerful operas of the classical repertoire which premiered in Italy in 1847. Verdi, who went on to become probably the most prolific opera composer ever, wrote that “this tragedy is one of mankind’s greatest creations.”
Macbeth will open Opera San Antonio’s 1917-18 season with two performances at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, on Friday, Sept 8 and Sunday, Sept. 10. The opera also inaugurates the first season that will be fully shaped by OSA’s general and artistic director Enrique Carreon Robledo, who joined the company a little over a year ago. He has assembled a cast of international pros that includes baritone Greer Grimsley as Macbeth and German soprano Nadja Michael as Lady Macbeth.
“This is a very challenging opera to produce,” said Carreon-Robledo, “but I think audiences should be exposed to it. It’s one of the greatest fusion of drama and music in the repertoire. It’s incredibly powerful.”
The most obvious challenge is to find performers who not only have great voices but who are also good actors, able to convincingly involve the audience in the plight of the characters. So, Carreon-Robledo first task was to find the right performer for the title role. “If you don’t have the right Macbeth, you have nothing,” he said. He found him in Grimsley, who has made the role his own and won critical praise for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s bloody, tyrannical king. And after a consultation with San Antonio Symphony’s artistic director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, he also found the right Lady Macbeth in Nadja Michael. His luck continued when internationally sought opera director Crystal Manich agreed to direct the production.
Carreon-Robledo is also pleased with others in the cast, including Nathan Stark as Banco, Eric Barry as Macduff and Tynan Davis, a native San Antonian, in the role of Lady Macbeth’s lady-in-waiting. A 32-member chorus, directed by Dottie especially Randall, will contribute greatly to “making this a total event.” Lang-Lessing will conduct the Opera San Antonio Orchestra, a music ensemble put together for the occasion. However, Carreon-Robledo hopes that the collaboration between SAS and OSA will continue after SAS completes its current management transition.
As in the past, the sets, costumes and other design elements, come from a 2015 Glimmerglass Festival production, which transposed the action to an early 20th century setting. This tale “is always believable,” said the artistic director. Indeed, human ambition and desire for power endure through the ages.
The opera will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. (For tickets call 223-8624 or go to www.tobincenter.org. You can also buy them in person at the Tobin’s box office. 100 Auditorium Circle, 78205)
Photos: Greer Grimsley; Nadja Michael