Opera North Blog

Macbeth: Through the Eyes of a Chorister of Opera North


With a new production there's the excitement of sitting in a darkened room while the Director leaps around a projection screen showing pictures from the "model box" (the doll's house version of the stage and set) enthusiastically engendering support for the production concept, whilst we sit in shock/awe/hysterics as we learn that the 18th century historical operatic tragedy will be set in a lunatic asylum/ Siberian prison camp/ space station/ hairdressing salon and even sometimes, in the traditional setting. We also get the first glimpse of the costume designs (please don’t let it be too tight/ too white/ too hot/ too short/ too naked).

But the blessing - or the curse - of a revival is knowing what is to come... Macbeth, for example, is a revival of an excellent Tim Albery production where there is a scene where a member of the (female) chorus, picked to resemble Lady M, has to act out rather graphically giving birth to 6 babies - as soon as the casting was announced members of the ladies' chorus were frantically comparing themselves to our leading lady and wondering if it was not too late to get their hair cut/hair dyed/plastic surgery in order to be overlooked for this particular honour. There are also a couple of scenes involving very high heels (VHH), one of which involves getting up from lying on the stage in these VHH, which at my stage of life is quite a challenge and does involve a lot of flailing around like a beetle stuck on its back until one of the more gallant gentlemen in the Chorus eventually takes pity on you and hauls you up. But my favourite stage effect is fire. There is something highly exciting about being in an extremely flammable environment watching a member of the cast brandishing a large, flickering, naked flame. There are always plenty of Stage Management on hand of course with fire extinguishers but it does make for a great ending to a show.

The interesting aspect of a revival though is when the principal cast changes – and the Macbeth cast has completely changed since last time. Firstly you feel a strange infidelity (it is like “cheating” on the original principals with the new ones) and then it opens up a whole new dynamic to the piece.  Each singer brings their own take on their character, which affects the relationships on stage and can make you see (and hear) the story in a totally different way. So in the end it doesn’t feel like a revival at all, but a fresh new take on an already admired production.  That’s what keeps it interesting for us performers and our audiences alike – so come along and enjoy!


By: Sarah Estill - Chorus of Opera North, soprano

Photo Credit: Bill Cooper

To purchase tickets, please visit: www.operanorth.co.uk/productions/macbeth

What you say


John Fawssett said ago

I think it's rather sad that so many companies these days like to perform travesties of the composer's intention. Very occasionally these do succeed, but mostly not.

Leave a comment

Newsletter Sign up