Verdi, Macbeth  (1847, rev. 1865)
unprecedented in Verdi’s art both for its psychological penetration and the refinement of its orchestral colouring: say, in the eerie, wailing cor anglais in the sleepwalking scene, or the evocative use of low clarinets. Macbeth is rightly seen as a watershed.” (Wigmore). More by Noseda and Wigmore in The Gramophone. New music This was very new and extraordinary music for any opera starting quietly, tension rising “to near breaking point, and the baleful orchestral sound, all implacable brass and slithery woodwind.” More in The Guardian  Callas made it hers – and Netrebko (our Lady Macbeth) has now done so. (Opera in Brief) Verdi and Shakespeare Verdi was more interested in Shakespeare’s crafting of drama than the poetry. The plot is mainly unchanged, with some very significant additions (the refugees scene, for example.)  In becoming an opera, the play loses none of the dramatic flow.  Verdi firmly asserted there were "the three roles in
 Macbeth in Verdi’s career It’s classified as ‘early Verdi’ but seen as a great leap for the composer. “Macbeth is like the black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey – nothing gives the impression that it’s going to appear and then suddenly it materialises. After Nabucco, Ernani makes sense, but Macbeth is miles ahead. Everybody thinks Verdi matured with Rigoletto; I think Verdi became a genius with Macbeth. Nabucco has great tunes, but it could have been written by an inspired Donizetti. Macbeth, on the other hand, is absolutely unique….” (Noseda) It’s not perfect – but it’s very different. “‘L’opera senza amore’, as the Italians dubbed it, has been derided for its stylistic inconsistencies, and for the alleged triteness of the witches’ choruses. Yet most opera lovers would agree that Macbeth is a masterpiece …
this opera, and there can only be three. .."Lady Macbet, (sic) Macbet, (sic) [and the] Chorus of Witches, …the Witches rule the drama.....They are truly a character, and a character of greatest importance." (Wikipedia) Famously, the three witches became three groups of female choristers, part-singing. Verdi specified the witches’ choruses “must be vulgar, yet bizarre and original (triviali, ma stravaganti ed originali)”. The witches’ diabolic humour acts as a foil to enhance the sublimity of other parts of the opera.   Lady Macbeth should be “ugly and evil,” her voice should be “hard, stifled and dark,” the voice of “the Devil.” “This was one of the first occasions in the history of opera when a singer was instructed to make such a sound in the service of the drama; when potent characterization was given primacy.”  (ROH)    But (like Shakespeare?) Verdi “couldn’t make up his mind as to what Macbeth himself was really like, and so failed to create a credible character. This means that as soon as ‘the Lady’ is dead, he needs to be got out of the way as soon as possible.”   (Spectator).

Our production, Fri. 14 & 21 Sept

Metropolitan Opera, 2014, cond. Fabio Luisi. Macbeth =- Zelko Lucik (bar), Lady Macbeth - Anna Netrebko (sop), Banquo - Rene Pape (bass), Macduff - Joseph Calleja (ten).

Quick Links

Text of the play    Synopsis    Libretto