Season-opening drama at the Lyric and CSO


When William Mason, the Lyric Opera’s general director, asked Barbara Gaines three years ago to direct Verdi’s Macbeth for 2010’s season opener, she piled on the homework. As the founding artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Gaines has a deep understanding of the Bard—her 2009 CST production of Macbeth skillfully set the tragedy in modern-day Chicago—but Verdi’s version is condensed and, well, sung in Italian. The eager scholar logged countless hours dissecting almost 300 pages of libretto and surrounded herself with an experienced team of designers to test her vision. “In theatre,” Gaines says, “you’ve got a few months to put it all together.” With opera, she notes, “I had three years to dream.” The world she’s imagined for Verdi is the reverse of her grounded-in-realism 2009 production; it’s an ambiguous merger of ancient Greece and Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion—a universal look for an enduring tale. And there’s another marked difference between Macbeth the play and Macbeth the opera: rehearsal time. “Ahhh!” Gaines wails in a joking panic. “We get the singers [the baritone Thomas Hampson and the soprano Nadja Michael] for much less time,” she says. “But we know a lot going in.”