THIRD WORLD BUNFIGHT (as part of the PuSh Festival) 16th - 21st January 2017
My Two Cents
By Kelly Moncton
I was worried walking into Macbeth. Shakespeare and Verdi are classic artists whose material is performed a lot, and yet an insider had recommended this production highly. Was it going to be worth the high expectations?
Yes yes yes. The PuSh Festival and Vancouver Opera brought a wonderful touring opera to Vancouver, and you should hurry up and see it. Third World Bunfight have taken all the best parts of the source material, and given the story greater significance than I have seen in it before.
Putting this story of corruption and power in modern Central Africa sounds like a gimmick, but works surprisingly well. The witches aren’t just representing magic- they’re also speaking for an outside business that wants to exploit the region. This injection of current events gives Macbeth’s rise to power more consequence. Throughout the opera, projections and the chorus show the audience how Macbeth’s actions, combined with international greed, ruin the community around him. One especially moving scene has the chorus mourning loved ones in such intensely personal ways.
The projected translations are a creative masterpiece. They managed to give us the flavour of the Italian words, while giving us access to the fresh story being told. Between casual profanity and a wink to the new American president, this text was startlingly modern at times, but stayed simple enough to let us enjoy the performances below.
The music was lush and sensitive. This opera would traditionally have many more singers and instrumentalists involved, but the ten singers and twelve-piece orchestra felt ideal in the Playhouse. The musical adaptations by Fabrizio Cassal strayed the furthest from Verdi when Macbeth and his wife were partying, but it felt very true to the spirit of the scenes. One or two of the exposed orchestral moments took my breath away.
I loved seeing how bold Brett Bailey’s staging was. One or two poses and some quick gestures conveyed everything we needed during an aria, leaving room for the intense performances. As Macbeth, Owen Metsileng’s emotions were painfully clear, and Nobulumko Mngxekeza’s Lady Macbeth was chilling in her ambition and later madness. The whole chorus could turn on a dime from oppressor to oppressed, when needed.
Reducing this dark and moving performance to its components feels inadequate. Every element was so polished, simple, and direct, and they combined beautifully. I know audiences in this town stand up far too often while clapping, but this audience was on its feet the instant the applause started, and involved far more hoots than I remember hearing at an opera before.
Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth shows how much power and relevance opera can have, and I am so glad to have experienced it.
Note on the Rating:
This show has been given two cents *minted* by Moncton - this is the highest rating possible. We highly recommend that you do not miss out on this production which is of the highest calibre of live performance in Vancouver.