Macbeth - Opera Events
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Based on the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, Macbeth is an opera with music by Giuseppe Verdi and a book by Francesco Maria Piave. It sets to music one of Shakespeare's most famous works, a story of fierce ambition, crushing guilt, and the inexorable powers of fate. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are two of the most coveted roles in all of drama and some of the world's greatest actors have offered their interpretations.
Verdi composed Macbeth in the mid-1840s, after the success of Attila but before his great hits of the early 1850s: Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata. It represented a departure from mainstream operatic subjects, but was very successful at its 1847 premiere. Verdi made several revisions to Macbeth in 1864-5 for a production at Paris' Theatre Lyrique. The changes included additional music, including a ballet and a final chorus, as well as new material for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Acts 1 and 3 and some alterations to the libretto. This version remains the more popular choice for modern performances.
There is a less popular opera also called Macbeth (and also based on Shakespeare's play) with music by Ernest Bloch and a libretto by Edmond Fleg. It premiered on November 30, 1910 in Paris, but was poorly received and is rarely produced today.
This synopsis follows Verdi's 1865 revised version of Macbeth.
Act I: 11th century Scotland. Three witches are gathered on a heath by a battlefield when triumphant generals Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches predict that Macbeth will be the Thane of Cawdor and that Banquo will leave a legacy of future kings. As the witches mysteriously vanish, a messenger arrives to announce that Macbeth has been named Thane of Cawdor. Back at Macbeth's castle, Lady Macbeth receives a letter from her husband detailing his meeting with the witches. Inspired, she vows to help him seize the throne. When she hears that King Duncan is to visit the castle that very night, she advises Macbeth to kill him. With some encouragement, he kills the king but is racked with guilt and paralyzed with horror. Deriding his cowardice, Lady Macbeth completes the plan by framing the sleeping guards. The nobleman Macduff discovers the murder and all (including Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) voice their desires to avenge the king.
Act II: Macbeth has risen to the throne in Duncan's place, but he is preoccupied with the prophecy that Banquo would found a royal line, so he conspires with his wife to kill him and his son, Fleance. As they arrive to the castle for a banquet, Macbeth's men kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes. At the banquet, Macbeth is horrified to see Banquo's ghost, leading his guests to think he has gone mad.
Act III: In their cave, the witches gather around a cauldron. Macbeth enters seeking counsel, and they offer him three prophecies: he must beware of Macduff, he can not be harmed by a man "born of a woman," and he can not be overthrown until Birnam Wood marches on his castle. Macbeth then sees a vision of Banquo's ghost and his descendants, eight of whom become kings of Scotland. He faints and awakens in his castle. When he tells his wife of his visions, they resolve to preserve the throne by killing Fleance and Macduff's family.
Act IV: At the England/Scotland border, Scottish refugees gather. Macduff vows to avenge the deaths of his children and wife. Malcolm, son of King Duncan, arrives with the English soldiers, who each cut a branch from a tree in Birnam Wood as they march on Macbeth's forces. Back at the castle, Lady Macbeth is found sleepwalking, finally feeling tortured with guilt for her and her husband's wicked deeds. While Macbeth awaits the arrival of the English army, he receives word that his wife has died. He realizes that he will never reach a ripe old age as the army arrives, carrying pieces of Birnam Wood as camouflage. Macduff reaches Macbeth and informs him that he was not born naturally, but through a Caesarian section. Meeting the witches' prophecies, Macduff kills Macbeth and instates Malcolm as King of Scotland.
|Written by||Giuseppe Verdi*|
|Italian Libretto by||Francesco Maria Piave*|
|Additional Material by||Andrea Maffei*|
|Based on||Macbeth by William Shakespeare|
*The less popular 1910 opera has music by Ernest Bloch and a libretto by Edmond Fleg.
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