Power, greed, madness and witches — no we’re not talking politics. We’re talking Verdi’s opera adaptation of ‘MacBeth’ starring baritone Michael Lewis.
Before I get too ahead of myself, I must warn you; I know nothing about opera — or at most, very little. Occasionally I’ll stop to hear the woman who busks on Queen Street with her young child in stroller and song book in hand, belting out very listenable — if not slightly out of place — operatic tunes. But that’s it.
The fact that opera’s not my forte doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Here’s just an example of my ignorance. When tasked with this interview with Michael Lewis on his upcoming role as ‘MacBeth’, one of my opening questions was, “So, do you ever sing any contemporary pop numbers? Maybe on your days off?” The answer was of course — in retrospect — a no. But the interview did considerably improve after that and in fact progressed to become most enlightening.
“I’m a middle strata baritone, a few high notes short of good money,” he jokes. Michael’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I’m immediately at ease. The subject is promotion for the up coming ‘MacBeth’ production which is opening in Brisbane in mid April, but after quickly selling it and even convincing me to come along, the interview takes some turns.
“It often happens in one’s career that you’re drawn to things, but you have to be asked to do them in the first place,” he says, mentioning that although he’s already played the title character on Verdi’s take on the Shakespeare epic, he’ll gladly take the role again and again if asked. “I have a handful of roles that are my favourites, and I must say that ‘MacBeth’ is easily among them.”
The difficulty of ‘MacBeth’, instead of being a deterrent, is part of the reward, Michael tells me. “yes, it’s hard to sing, but that gives you a chance to really show your artistry — it’s a gift of a role.” It is after all, a role that is always highly sought-after by opera’s best baritones, and has been for decades — nay, centuries.
“It’s one of Shakespeare’s great plays; it’s an absolute classic.” The topic of the opera’s relevance in our modern society is raised, but quickly put to rest. “It’s very relevant, the themes of greed and power in human beings are as relevant as ever, and those situations were never more starkly shown than in the story of ‘MacBeth’.
“It’s dark, very dark, and brooding. It evokes the thought of Scotland — even though the music is Italian — and it’s wonderfully written.” He feels so strongly about the piece that it’s impossible to disagree. His argument so persuasive that he could convert an opera-averse young person in minutes, and get them through the theatre doors half an hour early. I’m sure if you’re already a fan of ‘MacBeth’ or Shakespeare (or of course opera) though, this will be a performance not to be missed.
‘MacBeth’ runs for two nights only at the Concert Hall, QPAC — Friday April 13 to Saturday April 14.