Robert Wilson’s productions are always visually splendid, endowed with sophisticated lights and exquisite expedients. Debates about Bob Wilson’s aesthetics are more likely to concern the coherence of this American director to the original works he is representing on stage. Thanks to Wilson, to an orchestra in great shape, and to an excellent cast, this production was a success.

This Macbeth is not a new production: it premiered in 2012 at the Teatro Municipal in São Paulo and in 2013 at Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Since then, it has always given rise to heated discussions. To those who have already seen at least a couple of his other productions, Wilson’s mark is quite evident. Singers act like puppets: they move through forced and unnatural strokes, even though they are mostly immobile. Their faces are covered with a thick layer of white lead and make-up. The stage is permeated by a complex stream of lights and shadows, reminiscent of the Balinese wayang kulit (shadow play). The posture and the mimics rather recall Japanese Noh dramas: a sophisticated mise-en-scene, rousing in its kaleidoscopic flow of sidereal lights and pale veils.

However, Wilson’s detractors accuse him of annihilating the drama and the action with a frozen exercise in style. Some, even those recognising the preciousness of Wilson's works, would prefer to contemplate them as art installations inside a museum of contemporary art, rather than on stage. Last year, Teatro alla Scala’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, a Baroque masterpiece pouring out violence, sex, and power, turned out in Wilson’s known coldness and refined minimalism. 

Unlike Poppea (which, again, was a jewel, aesthetically speaking), Macbeth probably reached a different effect. The characters move slowly and solemnly on stage, they never brush against each other: could this be an allusion to their perverted psyche, corrupted by the avidity of power which can never be satisfied? Macbeth and his wife fall into an abyss of solitude, where even the most basic human principles and bonds are denied or forgotten. People do not really interact or communicate in Wilson’s universe. 

Not by accident, Macbeth and his Lady, never touch each other, like all the other characters on stage. Also according to Verdi’s libretto, Macbeth indeed seems totally entrapped into his hallucinatory state of violence and, at the end, he even remains unperturbed while finding out that his wife is dead.

The Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna was in great shape and played with a burning intensity that well suited Macbeth’s and his wife’s raising delirium (Preludio; Duncano sarà qui?), with a particular expressivity of the string sections. Everybody played well in the orchestra and in the chorus, without disregarding the soaring passages of the score, during those melancholic moments of fragility and solitude in which the characters precipitate, like in the monologue of Lady Macbeth (Una macchia è qui tuttora…), or during the banquet scene in when Macbeth is tormented by hallucinations and remorse. Merit is also due to maestro Roberto Abbado, who directed with energy, full control of the score and impassioned rhythm. When needed, he was able to enrich the execution with softer and more measured shades. At least some moments need to be mentioned: the preludio, with its sinister hues, where the instruments well depicted the macabre atmosphere that pervades the whole opera; the forest scene, with its stylised woods and enormous blood stains on the background.

Vocally speaking, the cast fulfilled expectations. Dario Solari (Macbeth) showed a burnished timbre, an irreproachable phrasing and a precise declamation. Amarilli Nizza’s Lady Macbeth conquered visually with her charisma and icy look, commanded by obscure reasons, almost a personification of the most inhuman and devilish temptations. Her singing was incisive and secure. Beautiful declamato, sensitivity in approaching the lower register and the moments of weakness of the Lady (Una macchia), where you could hear a her soft whisperering. The most difficult parts, those written by Verdi for a dramatic coloratura soprano, were successfully delivered, with good volume and nice phrasing. If I'm to be really picky, I will point out that at the beginning, some rising to the upper register was a bit arduous (Ambizioso spirto). The Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna’ Chorus outlined moments of pure tragedy and sense of fate through an always correct and engaging singing. Overall, a well done performance.