Macbeth was the first of Verdi’s operas to draw on the work of William Shakespeare and at the time of its composition in 1847 it marked a big step forward in the composer’s development. The Royal Opera is now presenting a second revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 production of the opera, this time under the direction of Harry Fehr. It is based on the revised version Verdi prepared for Paris in 1865.

It is a sumptuous performance: the drama is fast paced and the large chorus is deployed with superb effect from the opening witches’ cabal to the final victory scene. Visual motifs weave cleverly through the production. The gilded canopy under which Duncan is murdered becomes the dais of the new-crowned Macbeth, later morphing into a gilded cage and the place of his death.

The witches appear not just as the foretellers of events but as agents of the proceedings too, their crimson turbans evoking the bloodiness of the action. A witch delivers Macbeth’s letter to his wife, another hides Fleance from his would-be assassins At the end of Act II, the guests who have witnessed Macbeth’s ravings at the appearance of Banquo’s ghost transform into a mass of refugees wrapped in blankets, trudging through gently falling snow. It’s an imaginative touch, anticipating the scene which opens Act IV with the refugees lamenting the misery of war.

References to the uniforms worn in the Balkan conflict in the 1990s, and perhaps to more recent events in the Arab world, remind us of the chaos inflicted on ordinary people by the lust for power of a few.

Liudmyla Monastyrska is impressive as Lady Macbeth. She’s in complete command technically and uses a wide range of vocal effects to convey the complex character of her ambitious and mentally unbalanced character. She’s ruthless, sexy, yet ultimately pathetic. Several of her scenes drew appreciative applause from the audience including the famous La Luce Langue aria in Act I and the sleep-walking scene in Act IV. Monastyrska came to international attention in 2009 when she stepped in at short notice to sing Tosca at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Her performance as Lady Macbeth will surely help to cement the reputation of this Ukrainian star.

Simon Keenlyside is an imposing Macbeth, moments of nervy irresolution alternating with acts of blind impulse. His wife’s domination drives him from one gory act to another until her breakdown and death leave him broken, like a man acting out a role he no longer believes in. Keenlyside drew well-deserved applause for his moving aria Pietà, rispetto, amore where he grieves over what his life has become. Raymond Aceto (Banquo) and Dmitri Pittas (MacDuff) also give vivid performances. Pittas’s lament for the death of his children in Act IV was stirring and full of grief.

The opera will be broadcast live in 450 cinemas on June 13, including the Odeon and Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford (; and the Regal, Henley ( This is part of an expanding programme of broadcasts from the Royal Opera.