Mid Wales Opera: Macbeth, Ffwrnes, Llanelli

March 27, 2024 by


There are many interweaving themes running through Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish play’, but at its heart, Macbeth is a cautionary tale about the destructive nature of unchecked ambition.

Set in the Highlands where the natural and supernatural worlds collide, its main protagonists commit murderous crimes of treachery in pursuit of their goals, before succumbing to guilt and paranoia as a consequence.

These extremes of giddying highs and desperate lows are brought to the forefront in Mid Wales Opera’s excellent production of Verdi’s opera, an English-language adaption that revels in the emotional intensity of the music and is elevated by two standout performances from its central pairing.


Directed and designed by Richard Studer, with lighting design by Elanor Higgins, one of MWO’s superpowers had long been touring productions that, despite lacking the financial and logistical clout of the national companies, retains the ethos of a full-scale blockbuster.

That is very much the case with Macbeth, where a sparse stage is framed by grasping tree branches and pointed antlers, with additional elements such as hanging chains adding a sense of menace to proceedings. This Scotland is a hostile and barren land in which light alone becomes a powerful storytelling tool, bathing the stage in blood-red during a murder and switching back to pure white for the royal banquet.


Franco-Canadian baritone Jean-Kristof Bouton dominates the stage in the title role with a complete performance of both vocal and acting ability. The ferocity in his voice mirrors the intensity of his actions, capturing Macbeth’s fluctuating emotions with remarkable depth as he raises a fist in triumph or falls to his knees in anguish.

Urging him on is soprano Mari Wyn Williams as Lady Macbeth, who previously toured the theatres of Wales with both MWO and Swansea City Opera. Skilfully navigating her transformation from conniving puppet master to suicidal sleepwalker, she delivers an equally powerful performance that excels during the duets.

Conducted by music director Jonathan Lyness, the reduced orchestration, performed by Ensemble Cymru, matched the passion of the performers on stage. The sound perfectly suited the intimate space, with the orchestra’s pit within touching distance of the audience. The remaining cast members delivered strong performances, complemented by the community choir that bolstered their already sizeable number.

While MWO’s funding cuts have been much publicised recently, the company can do little more to fight its corner than to keep its standards, and collective heads, this high. By packing out theatres such as Ffwrnes that would otherwise be deprived of high-quality opera, Macbeth serves as a defiant reminder to those who control the purse strings that art of this quality remains not only in demand, but is essential.


Images by Craig Fuller

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