Last week we had a great event here in Stockholm. No less than the great Maestro Riccardo Muti came here and conducted a Macbeth, in concert form. I’ll say it right away: no matter how much I despise Muti as a human being, he was brilliant. It was the best thing I’ve listened to here in Stockholm since I live here.
Yes, it’s true, Il Maestro believes he’s Toscanini’s spiritual heir, and so he creates a lot of sound, really an excessive amount, which at times strays into chaos, and unbearable heaviness. These kind of moments, which still were there (the opening of the toast gave me a heart attack), were small exceptions, in an evening where the Kungliga Filarmonikerna orchestra played really well, with an incisiveness and a passion that I rarely heard, from them. Muti’s conducting was precise, careful, detailed, passionate. And he didn’t even mistreat too much the singers, as he usually does, rushing them, and not leaving them enough time to breathe. All in all, a triumph. Damn him.
Best player of the evening, the choir, the Eric Ericsons Kammarkör, reinforced by a few members of the Kungliga Operan chorus (as my well informed sources tell me). The Eric Ericson choir is famous for its clean, dry, precise sound, with no vibrato (in fact, they are absolutely wonderful in the baroque repertoire); so I was a bit skeptical in their approach to Verdi. They were spectacular. With their legendary precision, their musicality, and a truly elegant phrasing, the singers gave us a memorable performance, with none of the vulgarities which sometimes we hear in the opera theaters. The choral parts in Macbeth are full of bear traps, of pages that are extremely easy to sing badly. The Eric Ericsons Kammarkör managed to sing with intelligence even the witches’ choruses, even the screams of Trema Banco!, closing every musical phrase, and giving it a nice shape. Bravissimi!
Macbeth was Luca Salsi, I really liked him a lot. His voice is very Italian, very much in tune, mellow, well set, and he gives great interpretation. His Macbeth is immediately doubtful and weak; he takes strength, will and determination from his wife, and when he questions the witches, then he falls apart in the toast scene. The last aria was simply wonderful.
Lady Macbeth was Vittoria Yeo, a less convincing Korean singer. She sings very well, but her voice is a bit thin for Lady Macbeth. a bit weak. She gave a great interpretation, starting with a remarkable letter scene, but then the first aria was somewhat weak. She improved; probably she was also a bit nervous at the beginning. The toast was wonderful, and the last scene (Una macchia è qui tuttora) almost moving.
The amazing bass Ildar Adbrazakov, who I had already heard as Don Basilio in the Barber of Seville in Paris, was Banco. The first duet with Macbeth absolutely great, and his only aria was wonderful. His voice is amazing, the kind of voice I like. I will probably start following him.
The tenor, Macduff, was Francesco Meli, a good voice, solid and strong. He’s a bit of a “tenor”, somewhat boisterous, jumping on high notes, not particularly elegant. But he did his job, and the aria La paterna mano came out very well.
Malcolm was the tenor Antonello Ceron, a routine singer who sings a lot in Italy; he sings Ruiz in Trovatore, the messenger in Aida, and so on. His voice is beautiful and confident, and he did his job.
The two minor roles (Lady Macbeth’s maid, and the doctor) were two local singers: Sara Olsson, who I had already heard in Falstaff, in Stockholm, and John Erik Eleby. Both very good.
The performance was a tremendous success, the theater was completely full (despite prices anything but cheap), and the standing ovation was endless. It seemed to me a sign that maybe the Stockholm Konserthus, just like the Kungliga Operan, could afford to become a bit more daring, and call some international star more often. Clearly the Stockholm audience is willing to spend more money to see shows of this level.