In a tour de force performance, punctuated by stunning sets, haunting music, and powerful balletic drama, The Carolina Ballet thrilled the Durham Performing Arts Center during the Sunday, May 1st, matinee of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The play is the capstone of a tribute to Shakespeare that has spanned artistic director and choreographer Robert Weiss’ plans for the 2016 Spring Season. This exciting world premiere celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and features a moving score by J. Mark Searce played live by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle and somber, yet grand sets created by Jeff A.R. Jones. Most Shakespeare aficionados consider Macbeth to be Shakespeare’s crowning glory, and now it is the Carolina Ballet’s, as well.
From the moment Hecate, goddess of magic and witchcraft, arrives onstage in shrouds of mist, the spell is cast, and the audience gasps in wonder. Beautifully danced by soloist Randi Osetek, the character of Hecatae is often ignored by theater productions of the play, but Robert Weiss shrewdly knew that the mystical woman is integral to the play’s background and could be “an intriguing presence.” Danced almost entirely on pointe, Hecate “conjures up mankind” in the opening act and “restores order by passing the crown to Banquo’s son” at the end of the play. The scenes are perfect bookends to the story and Osetek is the perfect choice for the character.
Some believe the most interesting points of this play are the relationships between the men and women, and Weiss has also recognized that and built strong balletic partnerships between Lord and Lady Macbeth (Marcelo Martinez and Lara O’Brien) and Lord and Lady Macduff (Richard Krusch and Margaret Severin-Hansen). Martinez and O’Brien are athletic dancers who embody a passionate relationship with each other that extends across the footlights. They are equally strong and balance each other well. They are regal when with their roles call for it, and a couple very much in love when alone in their bed chambers.
Martinez’s battle scenes are believable and exciting, while O’Brien’s descent into madness at the end of the ballet is expressed with every muscle of her long and lithe body. Her toe work becomes jerky; her hands spasm with the jerkiness of her abdomen. Martinez, on the other hand, leaps with a ferocious daring; and he leads the other male dancers with a smoky arrogance. The two principals leave no doubt about their expertise.
The Macduffs are as sweet and family-oriented as the Macbeths are filled with an obsession for each other. Richard Krusch’s partnering of Margaret Severin-Hansen is warm and supportive. Severin-Hansen’s Lady Macduff is maternal, feminine, light. Her scene with her children toward the end of the play is heartbreaking and intense, danced with aching beauty.
The tale is one about family and power. The Macbeths are unlucky, yet hungry for control over their world. Lady Macbeth’s character is largely drawn by her depression over losing her baby, while Macbeth is off at war.
When he comes home, he is consumed with an overwhelming ambition, which Lady Macbeth shares. Together, they conspire to kill King Duncan in order to pave the way for Macbeth to become king. Early in the story, three witches predict his rise to power, but the Macbeths never quite comprehend that killing people on their way to the top will only ensure their downfall.
Broken into three sections, the ballet covers the play fairly well, and the sets open and close in rock formations that are surprisingly versatile. They reach to the ceiling of the stage, moving back and forth to simulate castles, forests, bed chambers, and thrones. Their texture changes with the focus of the spotlights that serve to bring deeper drama to the stage. Those spots underline the horror Lady Macbeth feels when she cannot wipe Duncan’s blood from her hands, and they provide emphasis on Hecate’s solos.
The larger stage gives the dancers the space they need to explore their roles and to sauté, sissone, cabriole, and jeté with ease. For a story as extensive as this one, with war battles and large dancing scenes, the stage must afford the dancers an adequate amount of space, and this one does.
The Carolina Ballet has done Shakespeare proud this season, and this tragedy is the crowning jewel in what has been an interesting season. There’s one more Shakespearean ballet before the season closes, but it will be difficult to live up to this one. Still, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sure to prove a lovely fantasy on stage. Tickets are still available for the May 12-15 performance of this comedy in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.
SECOND OPINION: April 27th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/robert-weiss-dares-to-embellish-the-bard-in-carolina-ballets-macbeth/Content?oid=5023266 and April 20th mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/macbeth/Event?oid=4986009; April 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Martha Quillin: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article70925862.html; and April 3rd Raleigh, NC ArtsNow guest blog by Jeff A.R. Jones: http://www.artsnownc.com/guest-blog-macbeth-ballet/.
MACBETH (Carolina Ballet, April 14-17 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and April 30 and May 1 in the Durham Performing Arts Center).
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/carolina-ballets-macbeth and https://www.facebook.com/events/981141958628229/.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium:
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
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Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.