There was no mistaking the real king at Saturday night’s opening performance for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s concert version of Verdi’s Macbeth. It was conductor Riccardo Muti, making a grand entrance as the entire orchestra, CSO chorus, and a cadre of guest soloists stood at attention and the audience broke into wild applause.

After mounting a double platform, Muti stood head and shoulders above the army of musicians and singers on the stage floor, and also front and center.

From where I sat, it looked like baritone Luca Salsi, as Macbeth, was singing directly into Muti’s belly, while the eyes of the audience fell on the conductor’s elegant back: hair, tailcoat, dancing baton and—when he swooped toward the violins or cellos—the aristocratic nose, in profile.

This is a musical purist’s Macbeth, stripped of its usual visual elements: no sets, no costumes, no directorial distortion, and none of the physical action that, especially in this opera, with its ghosts and witches, can turn the whole thing hokey. I’m a sucker for everything visual, but with the orchestra on the stage instead of in a pit and the singers (including soprano Tatiana Serjan as Lady Macbeth) as living instruments at the maestro’s command, Verdi’s sheer aural drama stands, magnificently, on its own.

Performances continue tonight and Friday at 7 PM and Sunday at 3 PM at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000,, $35-$280. Rush tickets for students and seniors (at $15 and $20 respectively) may be available at the box office; they’re cash only.