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Something wicked this way comes - New production of Macbeth opera arrives

PUBLISHED: 14:26 19 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:06 19 April 2019

Grant Doyle and Madeleine Pierard in English Touring Opera's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

Grant Doyle and Madeleine Pierard in English Touring Opera's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

Betrayal, murder and revenge are promised as one of the Bard's best-known plays heads to Norwich Theatre Royal. Verdi's interpretation of Macbeth is part of English Touring Opera's 2019 offering in the city.

The Witches in English Touring Opera's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITHThe Witches in English Touring Opera's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

Director James Dacre says it is a project which provides the perfect palette for a stunning interpretation of Shakespeare's work.

Jealousy, the machinations of those who crave higher status, and a blood-soaked path to power are all at the core of one of Shakespeare's best-known plays, Macbeth.

A scene from English Touring Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITHA scene from English Touring Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

When Verdi transformed this incredibly-layered epic into an opera, the stage was set for something special.

And it is these elements along with the power of the piece which first enthused James Dacre to bring it to life for English Touring Opera. It will be performed at Theatre Royal Norwich on April 26.

Grant Doyle as Macbeth in English Touring Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITHGrant Doyle as Macbeth in English Touring Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

For Macbeth, whether you are reading Shakespeare's text or exploring Verdi's extraordinary musicology, there were a number of parallels. He said: “What became so apparent to us during the preparation and rehearsal was how comparable Verdi's imagination and thought processes were to Shakespeare's own.

“What we saw was the restless active imagination of two young artists - a playwright and a composer who were both drawn to this source material both because of its ancient significance to this country but also this incredible patchwork quilt of different stories that the life of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth offers.”

Grant Doyle as Macbeth and Madeleine Pierard as Lady Macbeth in English Touring Opera's production. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITHGrant Doyle as Macbeth and Madeleine Pierard as Lady Macbeth in English Touring Opera's production. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

The ruthless and violent path to power is also a theme that is timeless in drama and opera, and James wanted to ensure his version of Macbeth was contemporary, while also being respectful to the original.

This meant exploring Shakespeare's interest in the occult and witchcraft against the background of war which is a core theme of Macbeth. He explained: “We found that in so many of our conflicts especially in areas that have known extended periods of civil war which are on a country's border, there is the emergence of new religions, theories of witchcraft, shamanism and stories of the occult.

“These are borne from the idea that the world is so bad that we need to draw upon the spirit of the supernatural and the divine in order to effect change. There is also barely a day that goes by without hearing the rhetoric of division and walls perhaps most famously with the Republicans talking of a border wall with Mexico. The idea of border walls and conflict are so topical in these troubled times we live in.”

Audiences who come to see Macbeth at the Theatre Royal on April 26 will see it set by the aforementioned border wall accompanied by a military compound and with these supernatural themes. James has also given the opera a twist by depicting the iconic witches in a slightly different way as Red Cross nurses.

He explained: “One question we wanted to ask was what if the witches are not there just to harm? What if they are there to nurture Macbeth and restore him to health? Could they be guiding him to the destruction he pursues, but what if they are also the hidden people of society who live in borders and conflict zones? It felt an interesting idea to ask if the reason the witches are pushed to the outside of society because it is a choice of theirs rather than simply because they are ostracised. What if they have the ability not just to harm but also to heal?”

Taking on the title role of Macbeth is Australian-born Grant Doyle who is a former Royal Opera Young Artist and has also performed for Garsington, Opera North, and Opera Queensland. His wife is portrayed by Madeleine Pierard who is also a former Royal Opera Young Artist who has previous credits with New Zealand Opera, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the role of Régine in Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna, and recitals at the Wigmore and Cadogan Halls and the Royal Opera House.

The cast also includes Ed Hawkins, who is no stranger to Theatre Royal visitors Glyndebourne having sung in Brett Dean's trail-blazing Hamlet and Fiona Shaw's new production of Cinderella.

• During their visit to Norwich Theatre Royal, English Touring Opera also presents Rossini's Elizabeth I on April 25 and Mozart's Idomeneo on April 27.

For more details and tickets, visit the website.

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