18 Jan 2010

VERDI: Macbeth — Vienna 2009

Macbeth: Melodramma in quattro parti.

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare.

First performance: 14 March 1847 at Teatro La Pergola, Florence.

First performance (revised version): 21 April 1865 at Théâtre Lyrique Impériale, Paris.

Principal Characters

Duncano, Re di Scozia Silent
Macbeth, Generali dell'esercito del Re Duncano Baritone
Banco Bass
Lady Macbeth, moglie di Macbeth Soprano
Dama di Lady Macbeth Mezzo-soprano
Macduff, nobile scozzese Signore Fiff Tenor
Malcolm, figlio di Duncano Tenor
Fleanzio, figlio di Banco Silent
Domestico di Macbeth Bass
Medico Bass
Sicario Bass


Act I

In a wood amid thunder and lightning a group of witches discuss the mischief they have perpetrated. Macbeth and Banco enter, generals in King Duncano's army: by way of prophecy, the witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and Banco as the father of kings. They are disturbed, especially Banco, who is horrified by the veracity of the witches' predictions when the King's messengers announce that Macbeth has been made Thane of Cawdor.

In the castle Lady Macbeth reads the letter in which her husband tells her of his meeting with the witches, and she reflects that, in order for the prophecy to come true, King Duncano will have to be killed. She incites Macbeth to commit the crime, although he is the victim of terrifying visions. Duncano, spending the night in the castle as a guest, is assassinated. In the morning Macduff goes to wake Duncano and comes back horrified by what he has found. Everyone rushes to the scene to condemn the act of treason.

Act II

Since the witches predicted that Banco would be the father of kings, Macbeth, seeing this as an obstacle to his own ambitious plan to rise to power, decides to kill his friend together with his son Fleanzio. He entrusts the task to a group of murderers who ambush them while they are going through a wood, but they are only partially successful: Banco is killed and Fleanzio manages to escape.

Meanwhile in Macbeth's castle a banquet is being held, whose festive atmosphere is interrupted by the arrival of a murderer with blood on hs face. When he recounts what has happened, Macbeth is alarmed and starts to rave: Banco's ghost appears before him, his hair soaked in blood. He speaks wildly to it, denying his guilt, to the terror of the guests; Lady Macbeth exhorts him to compose himself, but shortly after the ghost reappears. Macbeth resolves to go and question the witches again.


In a dark cavern the witches are gathered around a cauldron. Macbeth arrives to question them and they call up a series of apparitions. The first tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff, the second that no man of woman born will harm him, the third pronounces him invincible until he sees Birnam Wood moving towards him. Then eight kings file past, Banco's offspring who will rule: Macbeth tries to attack them, then faints. Witches and aerial spirits revive him and he spurs himself on to increase his power.

Act IV

On the borders of Scotland and England the Scottish refugees lament the fate of their country now that it is at the mercy of a bloodthirsty tyrant. The victims of Macbeth's latest massacre are Macduff's wife and children. Malcolm and Macduff prepare the revolt against Macbeth: every soldier will advance towards the castle with a branch in his hand.

Inside the castle Lady Macbeth, watched over by a doctor and a lady-in-waiting, reveals her crisis of conscience every night by reliving the brutal deeds in her sleep and trying obsessively to wash the blood from her hands.

The enemy troops are attacking Macbeth's castle when the Queen's death is announced. Even this news does not shake him, but when he learns that Birnam Wood is moving towards him he shouts that he has been deceived and, seizing sword and dagger, confronts Macduff declaring he has no fear of him. Macduff tells him that he was not born, but untimely ripped from his mother's womb. Macbeth is mortally wounded and dies.

Click here for the complete libretto (Italian).

Click here for the complete libretto (English translation).