In a much-cited letter to Francesco Maria Piave, his librettist for Macbeth, Verdi wrote, ‘This tragedy is one of the greatest creations of the human spirit. If we can’t do something great with it, let us at least try to do something out of the ordinary.’
As it happens, they did do something laudable with the Scottish Play. Verdi’s tenth opera, his first based on Shakespeare, was without precedent in its fierce integration of dramatic and musical elements; its cohesive narrative flow; and its consistently dark-hued tinta, or colour (brighter outbursts of coloratura aside).
The jury’s still out on whether this new Stuart Maunder-directed co-production between West Australian Opera and State Opera of South Australia is great or extraordinary. But it is immensely satisfying on a number of levels, with an effectively minimalist set, less minimalist costumes (both by Roger Kirk) and Trudy Dalgleish’s atmospheric, Caravaggesque lighting design.