Macbeth, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Macbeth, was written at the height of what the composer called his galley slave period. Verdi lost his two baby sons and wife when he was still in his late twenties. Rather than succumb to grief, he poured himself into his work and between 1842 and 1853 Verdi, astonishingly, wrote seventeen operas starting with Nabucco and culminating with La Traviata.
Verdi wanted Macbeth to be ‘something out of the ordinary’. Given that he dedicated the opera to his father in law, he was clearly determined to write something very special.
Shakespeare was an inspiration for Verdi throughout his career (his final two operas, Otello and Falstaff, both draw on the Bard’s plays) so it is unsurprising that his Macbeth is such a faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Macbeth, driven on by his ambitious and scheming wife, kills and kills again to rid himself of his rivals for the Scottish throne, only to be undone by the demons he has created for himself and his over reliance on the witches’ prophecy.
In Macbeth, Verdi was on the verge of attaining worldwide fame. Undeterred by the conventions of his day, his great achievement was writing music that quite brilliantly underpins the drama that unfolds. A great example of his originality is Lady Macbeth’s aria “Si colmi il calice di vino eletto” and the disturbing contrast between her readiness to accept the appearance of Banquo’s ghost, and Macbeth’s and the ensemble’s response, full of fear and foreboding.
Premiered in Florence in 1847, it is now the turn of the Vienna State Opera to stage possibly the most theatrical of all of the Italian master’s great operas.