But it is all an illusion. The Macbeths are childless, and their nights are filled not with the sighs of sleeping babes but with the last gasps of the men whose lives they end in their ruthless route to the throne of Scotland.
In Phyllida Lloyd's production for the Royal Opera of Verdi's opera Macbeth, based on Shakespeare's play, this dream sequence contrasts strikingly with visceral real life from the first entrance of Macbeth, the spoils of war piled high and every limb and fabric dipped in gore.
Pure white, demonic black, blood red and tempting gold are the symbolic colours of Anthony Ward's strong design. Oppressive walls rarely part to admit the outside world, and when they do, the light cast before Macbeth is in the shape of a dagger...
Simon Keenlyside shows both power and weakness as Macbeth. Photo: Clive Barda
Like all leaders who choose self-advancement over the needs of his people (you don't have to look far to find those), Macbeth puts on the trappings of high office, the bejewelled crown and ceremonial wear. But his gilded room is also a cage, and his oppressed people eventually crowd in and take their own revenge.
This production dates from 2002, and apart from its evolving relevance, its enduring interest lies in a succession of new casts. On this occasion, baritone Simon Keenlyside returns to the role of Macbeth that he undertook in 2011. In the intervening years this very fine English singer's voice sounds to have deepened and filled out. But Keenlyside also suggests from the outset the reluctance and drift of a man unsure of his way.
It takes Lady Macbeth to see that clearly: only the reigning king and Banquo, whose sons are prophesied to reign, stand between him and the crown. She has no qualms about wiping out both. But during the restless nights in her single bed – that child-filled double bed all in the mind – guilt drives her sleepwalking and obsessive hand-washing.
Soprano Anna Pirozzi, who sang the role in 2018, returns to Covent Garden, and on the first night was cheered to the rafters by an audience simply ecstatic at her performance.
Opera nerds like to fossick through old opera recordings and listen to singers from a bygone age, grumping that we don't hear voices like that any more. Well here is one such voice, an incredible musical instrument in its own right: huge but beautiful, controlled but individual.
We hear some very good singing at the Royal Opera House, of course, but the performance by Pirozzi is in a different league, world-class, and one to savour. Other notable performances come from Austrian bass Günther Groissböck as Banquo and Russian tenor, new-comer Egor Zhuravskii as Malcolm.
Daniele Rustioni, conducting, takes his time with some tempi, but the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conjures up real danger and alarm, and the Royal Opera Chorus wades into the fray with gusto. Curious, though, the long pauses in revival director Daniel Dooner's pacing of the opera.
I'm never sure about those witches, crazily reeling and writhing and fainting in coils. Most of their forecasts seem based on sound sense and intuition. Most women have that, and they don't need a cauldron.
Macbeth is sung in Italian with English surtitles. Running time is 3 hours, including one interval
|What||Verdi's Macbeth review , Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
16 Nov 21 – 30 Nov 21, six performances, start times vary. Running time 3hr with one interval
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|