The Okavango Macbeth

The Macbeth story as played out in a troupe of baboons? This fanciful idea inspired writer Alexander McCall Smith, who had already collaborated with composer Tom Cunningham on the choral song cycles The Painter’s Eye and Scotland at Night (recorded on Delphian DCD34060), with the idea for this unique chamber opera, set in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. It centres on the efforts of an ambitious female baboon, Lady Macbeth, to encourage her husband to murder the dominant baboon, Duncan. The opera was premiered in Botswana, in The No 1 Ladies’ Opera House which McCall Smith helped found as a venue for the many talented local singers there, before transferring to this, the first of two Scottish productions to date.

"Vocally Lady Macbeth's is the most memorable music: Beth Mackay combines a pleasing tonal clarity with a cutting, calculating edge...Purists may sniff, but there aren't enough new operas like The Okavango Macbeth out there, with instant appeal across the generations. It's to be hoped smaller companies will seriously consider staging it. These CDs, meanwhile, will give much enjoyment."

"McCall Smith has fashioned a direct and communicative libretto to which Cunningham has responded with a score whose easy (though never facile) melodic and rhythmic interplay is made possible through a repetition of themes as rigorous as it is understated...this recording does justice to an unusual though worthwhile undertaking - one which has persuasively fulfilled its implicit brief to educate yet also entertain."

"Beth Mackay sings Lady Macbeth with a rich sense of imperiousness, and Rónan Busfield...sings Macbeth with clarity and a good dose of heroism. Andrew McTaggart makes a gravelly Duncan, but that fits his more authoritative role...In short, this is well worth a look."

"this does feel like a proper opera, rather than a string of unconnected solos and choruses...Beth Mackay’s Lady Macbeth chills and charms, and we understand exactly why Roan Busfield’s Macbeth is so besotted by her. The instrumental writing is pungent and lush by turns...Small-scale perfection."

Producer: Paul Baxter
Release Date: 24 October 2011
Catalogue No: DCD34096
Total playing time: 1:23:08

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