If you like Shakespeare’s play (see below) Verdi’s version requires an effort of sympathetic imagination. Verdi miraculously multiplied Shakespeare's three witches and two cut-throats into choirs. The subtly calibrated scene after the murder of Duncan is trashed in favor of a rousing Act 1 finale calling on God for vengeance. Macbeth’s famous lines of utter despair are set to lilting airs, interspersed with drinking songs, fight songs and more anthems of revenge. Then there are the ballets. Verdi concludes with a happy ending, of all things, making it the triumph of good over evil. As if anybody has ever cared about Malcolm. No doubt Verdi was very pleased with himself for not introducing a pair of crooning young lovers.
All that being understood, I was up for the challenge. I love experiencing the defunct dramaturgy that fired up the 19th century. And how can you go wrong with Verdi in charge?
Unfortunately last Thursday at Dorothy Chandler it wasn’t Verdi who was in charge, but the director, Darko Tresjnak. Here we are nearing the end of a year of Hillary and Trump, and Tresjnak turns the supreme tragedy of unscrupulous political ambition into a playpen of pothead occultism, with pentagrams and satanic kittens slithering around the stage. Ugh. A giant step back into LA Opera’s bad old days, when the sets, costumes and direction were unbearable, even if the singing and playing was first-rate.