Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Macbeth...and Zombies

Playtex Living Gloves


On Sunday, I went to see The Boston Lyric Opera's production of Macbeth.  It's an early work by Giuseppe Verdi, but as the music director pointed out in the lecture before the performance, it is not an immature early work.  The music is lovely, with choral passages that are just breathtaking.  The performers had amazing voices and the orchestra did a great job of supporting them without overwhelming the beauty of their singing.

The staging, however, was another thing entirely.  It was as if the opera had been staged by a high school student who had just discovered symbolism: heavy-handed and unintentionally hilarious.

The entire chorus was made up of zombies.  As characters died, they returned to the stage wearing the same zombie makeup so it became hard to tell who was really dead and who was faking it for the sake of Art. The women wore vaguely 19th century peasant garb and the men were dressed vaguely as early 20th century newsboys.  The colors were drab and lifeless.  Maybe this was a comment on how tough life was when the people of Scotland were ruled by kings who killed people right and left.  When the chorus was portraying the nobles of the court, however, they were dressed exactly the same way.  You'd think life at court would be a bit better -- or at least, courtiers would dress better.  In this scene, Lady Macbeth is singing before the royal court.  Not that you would know.

See the red gloves?  The chorus waved those gloves around and danced like they were at a Miley Cyrus concert.  They wanted to make sure you were paying attention to the gloves, which were red because the Macbeths have blood on their hands.  Get it?  It's symbolism.

The yellow gloves at the top of this post were props in Act I.  While Macbeth got his prophesies from the witches in a forest, Giant Playtex Living Gloves painted onto particle board waved in the background.  Toward the end of the scene, the gloves were flipped to reveal bloodstains.  Macbeth is going to have blood on his hands.  It's foreshadowing, y'all.  My drawings pretty accurately portray what the gloves looked like.  They weren't just Gloves of Doom.  They were Cartoon Gloves of Doom.

I knew we were in trouble when the curtain rose to reveal a raised stage made of riveted steel.  It looked like the deck of an aircraft carrier and was surrounded by metal staging and stairs.  I hoped that perhaps we were in for a modern take on Macbeth (which could have been interesting if it was well done) but then the chorus came out in their garb of unidentifiable provenance and zombie makeup and I realized we were in for a bumpy ride.

The chairs on the stage are supposed to be seats for the king and the highest-ranking members of court. I could see, even from the last row of the mezzanine, that the chairs had been purchased at a local Goodwill and spray-painted with sparkly gold Krylon. I'm all for an eclectic look, but really? The king of Scotland can't afford something not held together underneath with ye olde duct tape? Those chairs moved all over the place -- around the stage, up and down the staging, and over the heads of the zombie court while the principals were singing their hearts out. It was very distracting.

There was a lot of red splashed about in this production.  A lot of red.  That's because a lot of blood is shed in this story.  It's symbolism.  The men in the angry mob above are wearing Red Ballcaps of Doom because Macbeth has just been stabbed by Macduff (not to be confused with McGruff).  Blood is being shed.  Get it? In the previous scene, women were wearing Red Kerchiefs of Doom to let you know Macbeth's doom is approaching.  In case you've never heard of Shakespeare and you need a warning that Macbeth dies in the end.

This is the scene where Lady Macbeth descends into madness (quite literally, as you can see).  I wish the BLO website had a photo of the Jedi Rolling Pin she carried around in the first part of the scene where Lady Macbeth is wandering in the night muttering about the blood she can't wash off her hands.  I thought at first she was holding a black light, since using a black light is the best way to reveal bloodstains even after the area has been washed.  But no, it was a rolling-pin-shaped gadget that lit up and she waved it around for a while.  It distracted from the bravura musical performance she was giving, which was a shame.

The zombie in this picture is a doctor.  You can tell because he's wearing a Red Lab Coat of Doom.  Maybe the coat is red because in Shakespeare's (and Verdi's) time, doctors bled their patients.  Maybe it's a comment on the medical system of today and how it's bleeding us all dry.  Maybe it's foreshadowing that in the next scene, Lady Macbeth dies.  Maybe all three.  That's some deep stuff, my friends.

In the final scene, Dead King Malcolm, Dead Mrs. Macduff, and Dead Lady Macbeth (with their otherworldly garments helpfully marked in blood with the spots where they recieved their mortal wounds) drip rose petals down over little Banquo, Jr. who is still alive and will someday rule Scotland.  They do this to let audience members who may have nodded off know that his reign will come to pass because of the blood that has been shed.  In the background, the newsboys in the Red Ballcaps of Doom sing about how sad it all is.

Photos: blo.org.


Louise Ruggeri said...

Um. I'm speechless. But laughing a lot. Oh. My. The baseball caps are really the best.

Maria said...

I laughed all the way through. I totally forgot to mention the Flashcards of Doom in the last act. By that point I was beside myself.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! Everything -- of doom!!! :)