Yesterday I was at ROH for a Macbeth Insight Programme in anticipation of the production later this month. Hosted by Lloyd Bracey, it was held in the Clore Studio. The 'stage' is really only floor space & we sat above it.
Scheduled to last three hours, I wondered what the heck they could talk about for all that time when most people will at least know the story of the play but it was so good, so entertaining, it was over far too soon.
My seat was B34 & first thing I had to do was to ask some guy who was sitting in my seat to move; the 'some guy' looked up & I realised it was Tony Pappano.
No sign of Simon Keenlyside though who I'd really wanted to see.
Pappano took us through the main parts of the opera with Geoffrey Paterson (répétiteur & ROH assistant conductor) on piano, Polish bass Lukas Jakobski (Pietro in the Domingo Boccanegra) and Pappano singing bits of the Macbeth parts (he's a very good baritone) and the mezzo parts (not so good!). It was like Pappano did in the 'Opera Italia' series; singing, translating & explaining as he went along. Sounds awful but it really works. He has such an engaging personality, it was funny & very informal.
After a bit of joshing, where Pappano kept saying Jakobski was singing the wrong note (he meant it but we were in stitches & Jakobski was looking at him as if to say "and what would you know?"), Jakobski sang the whole of Banco's final aria Come dal ciel precipita. I can't describe how amazing that was, spine tingling & to be that close to such a fabulous powerful voice was totally awesome.
Pappano left as he was conducting that evening & sadly so did Jakobski, would love to have heard a bit more from him.
After a 20 minute interval, who should wander in, but the gorgeous Simon but with his arm still in a brace. Don't know why he didn't take part earlier but I've read he likes to keep a lot in reserve, even at rehearsal, so maybe that was the reason. Anyway he sat chatting with Lloyd Bracey for about 25 minutes. He explained how he learned a new role & how he saw the character of Macbeth (evil but not the sharpest knife). He likened the role to a 400 metre run, if you start too strong/too fast you'll never make it to the finish.
I didn't really learn anything new but it was great to see & hear him so relaxed & I did notice he's got a lot more movement in the arm than he had during Pélleas. He held his coffee in that hand & he didn't seem in any pain. He will be sword fighting with his right arm though for the performance.
After Simon left we were treated to some dancing. In this production there are singing witches and dancing (non-singing) witches & the choreographer explained & took us through their dance routine.
After that we had some history of Verdi & the play & three real actors enacted a few of the major scenes. I wasn't expecting that & it was a real bonus.
Then we were introduced to a guy called Rob Barham who is the ROH armourer & who had brought along some of the items which will be used in Macbeth. They're all beautifully made in-house and adapting Simon's sword so he could use it with his right (wrong) hand hadn't been a problem.
Barham said he would be starting work soon on items for Les Troyens which was going to be set in the Crimean War period.
And as I said, over too soon. Part 2 (rehearsal) next week.