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Macbeth opera premieres with Dayton audience

Dayton had to wait nearly half a century to have “The Scottish Play,” in its operatic form, presented by Dayton Opera. “The Scottish Play” is, of course, Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The dark tragedy is fraught with much emotion beyond its life as a stage play.  In the theater, if you say “Macbeth,” you have to perform an obeisance to free the theater and the cast from a curse.

Opera singers and their companies are indifferent to mere curses.  After all, they have to fill large auditoriums with only the sound of their voices, competing with the orchestra and often, ungainly costumes, to worry about such a simple thing as a witch’s curse.

Putting any effect of a curse aside, why has Verdi’s Macbeth been out of the standard repertory for so long?  While it is certainly produced, the statistical analysis comparing performances of Aida, Il Trovatore, Rigoletto, etc. with those of Macbeth would be quite lopsided.

Verdi had a passion for Shakespeare.  It is told that the Italian translations of Shakespeare’s works were always beside his bed.  He later created Othello and Falstaff to further satisfy that passion.

Opera sources, including Dayton Opera’s Impresario Tom Bankston, have testified that Macbeth is a difficult opera to cast and stage.  The central characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, require vocal and dramatic distinction well beyond many available singers.

Impresario Tom had little difficulty in selecting his leading roles.  Baritone Lester Lynch and soprano Michele Capalbo are stars of Dayton Opera’s history.  Lester has given us the most stunning Rigoletto, Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, Tonio in Pagliacci, and he joined with Michelle to open the Schuster in Aida. 

Michelle’s performances as Aida and Tosca have marked her as a great international soprano.  For both of these stars, Macbeth was a role debut. In fact, it was a role debut for everyone on the Schuster stage.

The third major role is Banquo.  Bass David Michael has had a litany of roles for Dayton Opera; he could be named “house bass” for this variety.  As Banquo, David sang his biggest and most dramatic role for us – and did it to perfection.

The opera is truly “Grand Opera.” A large supporting cast included the Dayton Opera Chorus, which became the fourth major voice of the opera.  Chorus Master Jeff Powell’s charges lived up to the challenge, carrying scene after scene with both musical and dramatic excellence.

Macbeth, unlike Aida, is not pageantry.  It is a seamless dramatic statement from start to finish.  The orchestra, under debut conductor Edvard Tchivzhel, made the music
live splendidly.  Often, the orchestral music created the mood while each of the singers had to provide the lyrical line.  Certainly a challenge, but which was met perfectly by each of the singers.  

Other roles of note were tenors Samuel Read Levine as Malcolm and Daniel Holmes as Macduff.  I particularly enjoyed the sleepwalking scene during which Michelle had to use her talents as a dancer, illustrating stately bearing but a disintegrating mental state.  As Lady in Waiting and the doctor, Nicole Ameduri and Adam Fry expressed sympathy and personal horror as their queen descended into her final madness and death.

Dayton Opera’s Macbeth was a triumph.  Stage director Michael Scarola made every scene effective.  The unit set was easily mutable for the many venues.  All were highlighted by John Rensel’s powerful lighting.

I am so grateful to add Macbeth to my great opera experiences.  I am thankful to Michelle and Lester for such riveting performances. I am amazed that Dayton Opera could mount this major undertaking so successfully.  But we do have, after all, copious amounts of “Bankston magic.”  I am certain that Impresario Tom is very tired but very happy.

My loyal readers will have to wait until next week to read about the Muse Machine’s spectacular Peter Pan and the latest plays at Dayton Theatre Guild and Dayton Playhouse.  I apologize but my mind and heart are still in ancient Scotland.

Steve Kuhn Trio at DAI Jan. 26

The peerless jazz pianist Steve Kuhn, hailed by the Washington Post as a “one of a kind” musician, visits Dayton for a concert with his trio Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Renaissance Auditorium at the Dayton Art Institute, located at 456 Belmonte Park North in downtown Dayton.

Appearing with Kuhn at this Dayton performance are bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy Drummond. Cityfolk has presented Mraz twice before, in performance with pianists Tommy Flanagan in 1988 and Larry Willis in 1992. Drummond has released four albums of his own (including the critically acclaimed Dubai) and played as a sideman on more than 200 albums.

The performance, which begins at 8 p.m., is part of the 2007-2008 CITYFOLK Jazz Series as well as the Jazz Piano Masters at the Dayton Art Institute series. General admission tickets for the concert are $20, and are available at the door and from the CITYFOLK Box Office at (937) 496-3863. More information is available on the web at

Puzzle of Light at Aullwood Jan. 26

Moon Over Aullwood returns with an Aullwood favorite Michael and Sandy Bashaw and Puzzle of Light on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 7:30 – 10 p.m. at the Marie S. Aull Education Center.

This unique ensemble includes musicians with musical backgrounds ranging from jazz and rock to ethnic and world music. These blended influences produce a distinctive “New World” sound that is both original and familiar; a repertoire that is traditional and experimental. The current group’s instrumentation includes Michael Bashaw on flutes, harmonica, whistles, vocals, kalimbas, balafons, and exotic handmade instruments and Sandy Bashaw on guitar, melodica, kalimbas and vocals.

Tickets purchased in advance are $8 for Friends of Aullwood members and $10 for non-members. The day of performance all tickets are $10. Call Aullwood at 890-7360 for more information.

Pulling from the Modernist Tradition

Reception and presentation by Melissa and Diane Thodos

Join us at the Westcott House, 1340 East High Street, Springfield, Ohio on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008, 7 to 9 p.m. for an informal discussion led by Melissa Thodos, founder and artistic director of Thodos Dance Chicago, and her twin sister Diane Thodos, expressionist painter and printmaker.

Melissa and Diane will explore how the legacy and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright tran spire in their own creative expressions - dance and visual art. Free to the public.

Light refreshments will be served. Cash bar available. For reservations please call 937.327.9291.

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January 22, 2008
Volume 17, No. 4

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