Interview: baritone David Stephenson on Verdi's Macbeth

Scottish Opera's revival of the Shakespearean tale is to be staged again by Dominic Hill

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Interview: baritone David Stephenson on Verdi's Macbeth

Macbeth, the ‘Scottish play’ that is one of Shakespeare’s very finest tragedies, has been relentlessly adapted for film, television, novels and comic strips. But Verdi’s operatic version is one that should unfailingly hit the audience between the eyes. In Scottish Opera’s revival of Dominic Hill’s staging, first seen in 2005, Shakespeare’s dark tale of ambition, betrayal and murder takes further inspiration from the war-torn Balkans of the late 20th century. Playing the title role is baritone David Stephenson who says, ‘I really like the concept that Dominic has come up with. Bringing Macbeth up to date in the way he has done works extremely well. It’s earthy and gritty and pretty much as Shakespeare intended and as Verdi adapted.’

It is, of course, not always the case that contemporary settings suit traditional operas. ‘Sometimes it works, and sometimes it simply doesn’t,’ says Stephenson. ‘But this is a modern-day take on a traditional story that is as relevant today as if it was set in the wilds and mists of the Scottish landscape.’

While the Theatre Royal remains closed for major upgrading, Scottish Opera moves to the considerably smaller Citizen’s Theatre, where Hill is artistic director, for three performances of Macbeth before transferring to the King’s in Edinburgh. ‘The production is very intimate, and really powerful because of that,’ says Stephenson. ‘By necessity we have a small cast, but at no point does it feel that anything is lacking. Arguably the greatest dramatist for opera, Verdi certainly knew what he was doing with Shakespeare and the music is fantastic. It’s a full-on emotional journey for me as an actor and singer.’ With its dark power and psychological menace as ambition and evil collide, this Macbeth promises to be a rollercoaster of a ride for audiences too.

Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow, Sat 22, Thu 27 & Sat 29 March; King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 8 & Thu 10 Apr.

Scottish Opera: Verdi's Macbeth

Verdi's Macbeth is presented in a reduced orchestration by Tony Burke. Dominic Hill's production is sets in a contemporary yet ageless world of camo-wearing soldiers and chainsmoking witches, with David Stephenson, Shuna Scott Sendall and Marie Claire Breen. Emmanuel Joel-Hornak conducts.

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