Macbeth, by Ernest Bloch, University College Opera, March 2009


Bloch was a Swiss musician who later moved to the west coast of America, and this is his only opera. It was first performed in Paris in 1910, to a libretto in French by Edmond Fleg, but forty years later Bloch set it to an English text using some of Shakespeare’s original words. This is its first staging in Britain, though there was a concert performance at the Festival Hall in 1975, heavily cut and sung in French! The melodious and atmospheric music was well conducted by Charles Peebles, and some of the singing was excellent. George van Bergen was terrific as Macbeth, as was Katherine Rohrer as Lady Macbeth. Hal Brindley did very well as Malcolm, and Richard Rowe and Carl Gombrich did well as Banquo and Macduff, with Louise Kemeny as a strong Lady Macduff. The only really weak performance was by Ryland Davies as Duncan, yet oddly enough he was the only principal announced on the title page of the programme. The relatively simple staging by John Ramster worked well, with atmospheric lighting by Jake Wiltshire, and excellent designs and modern costumes by Bridget Kimak that placed most of the men in army uniforms. Altogether this was well worth seeing, and I applaud University College Opera for putting it on.

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