SIR Mark Elder opens the Hallé Thursday concert series with Verdi and Beethoven: excerpts from the opera Macbeth by the former, and the ninth symphony by the latter. The Hallé Choir play their part, alongside top operatic soloists Béatrice Uria-Monzon, Scott Hendricks, Natalya Romaniw, Madeleine Shaw and Allan Clayton.
These works might seem worlds apart, but Sir Mark says they have something vital in common:
“As we were putting this season together, we realized we were (quite unconsciously) including a connecting thread you could call ‘Northern Legends’ – from Wagner’s Ring and the material Schoenberg used in Gurrelieder to some of the tales of old Scotland. Macbeth, of course, is a real Scottish figure as well as a Shakespeare character.
“But the common factor with Beethoven’s ninth is that I think both works were what you could call ‘game changers’ – both composers wanted to do something that was above the usual.
“In Beethoven’s case it was using the human voice in a symphony to express something more than could be done with instruments alone. In Verdi’s it was, in a way, the opposite: he wanted to take out the purely vocal charm of the Italian bel canto style and create a kind of musical drama that had not been done before.
“He wanted dramatic presentation of the scenes, rather than a display of singing. He insisted on a dress rehearsal before the first performance – something never done in opera before – and worked repeatedly on the scenes he wanted delivered in a realistic way … the ones we are performing on Thursday.
“Two of our singers are coming straight from a stage performance of the opera in Brussels, so they will be singing in the way they do in the theatre. Verdi, for instance, wanted the voices of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the murder scene to be hoarse and whispered, because of their fears: that’s what we want to re-create.”
Sir Mark is also looking forward to his concert on November 10, when he will conduct and, it is planned, record Vaughan Williams’ sixth symphony – another in a CD succession of VW symphonies from the Hallé, now quite extensive.
“I’m excited to be doing this work, which is so different, wild and anguished,” says Sir Mark. “The orchestra will be up for whatever challenges the music gives us. My respect for, and interest in, Vaughan Williams grows every year.”