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Verdi's Macbeth

3 hours
First broadcast:
Saturday 18 June 2011

Verdi's Macbeth
Presented by Andrew McGregor

When witches prophesy that Macbeth will be made thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland, they unleash in him a turmoil of anticipation and misery. But Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husband's uncertainty. She covets the kingship for him and is prepared to go to any length to obtain it.
Simon Keenlyside plays Macbeth and Liudmyla Monastyrska Lady Macbeth in this acclaimed revival from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Antonio Pappano conducts.

Macbeth ..... Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Lady Macbeth ..... Liudmyla Monastyrska (soprano)
Banquo ..... Raymond Aceto (bass)
Macduff ..... Dmitri Pittas (tenor)
Malcolm ..... Steven Ebel (tenor)
Lady-In-Waiting ..... Elizabeth Meister (soprano)

Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Conductor ..... Antonio Pappano.

  • Simon Keenlyside as Macbeth

    Simon Keenlyside as Macbeth

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Liudmyla Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth

    Liudmyla Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Raymond Aceto as Banquo

    Raymond Aceto as Banquo

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Dmitri Pittas as Macduff

    Dmitri Pittas as Macduff

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Scene from Act I of Macbeth

    Scene from Act I of Macbeth

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Scene from Act II of Macbeth

    Scene from Act II of Macbeth

    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Keenlyside as Macbeth and Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth

    Keenlyside as Macbeth and Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth

    Also with Dmitri Pittas as Macduff
    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Steven Ebel as Malcolm and Dmitri Pittas as Macduff

    Steven Ebel as Malcolm and Dmitri Pittas as Macduff

    The Finale of Macbeth
    (c) The Royal Opera / Clive Barda 2011

  • Synopsis

    The opera is set in Scotland,and on the Scottish and English border.

  • Act I

    Scene 1
    In a raging thunderstorm, three groups of witches appear and describe their evil deeds (Che faceste?). Macbeth and Banquo, two generals in King Duncan’s army, approach (Giorno non vide mai). The witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland; they hail Banquo as the father of future kings. Messengers arrive and announce the fulfilment of the second of these prophecies. Banquo and Macbeth reflect on the third (Due vaticini compiuti or sono). The generals leave and the witches anticipate seeing Macbeth again (S’allontanarono!).

    Scene 2
    Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband telling her of his victory in battle and of the witches’ prophecy. She resolves to help him fulfil it (Vieni! t’affretta!). When a servant announces that the King is on his way to the castle with Macbeth, she determines that they must act that night and calls on the powers of evil to help her (Or tutti sorgete). Macbeth arrives ahead of Duncan and husband and wife quickly agree to murder their King.

    As Macbeth waits for the castle to be silent, a vision of a dagger appears to him (Mi si affaccia un pugnal?!). He ignores the omen but, having committed the murder, is then filled with doubt and remorse (Fatal mia donna! un murmure!). His wife accuses him of cowardice. She snatches the dagger and smears the king’s sleeping guards with blood in order to incriminate them.

    It is nearly dawn, and Macduff and Banquo arrive at the castle. While Macduff goes to wake the King, Banquo reflects on the wild night. Macduff discovers the murder and the household vow vengeance on the unknown assassin (Schiudi, inferno, la bocca ed inghiotti).

  • Act II

    Scene 1
    Macbeth is now King of Scotland and Duncan’s son Malcolm, blamed for his father’s death, has fled to England. Fearing the witches’ prophecy that Banquo would be the father of kings, Macbeth and his wife now plot to kill him and his son (La luce langue).

    Scene 2
    Assassins in Macbeth’s service wait for Banquo in the dark (Sparve il sol). Banquo and his son Fleance arrive, Banquo uneasy with foreboding (Come dal ciel precipita). Banquo is murdered but Fleance escapes.

    Scene 3
    Macbeth and his queen welcome guests to his coronation festivities and she proposes a toast (Si colmi il calice). An assassin tells Macbeth of Banquo’s murder. As Macbeth comments publicly on his friend’s absence, the ghost of Banquo appears to him. Lady Macbeth tries to calm her husband and reassure the troubled guests, and when the ghost vanishes the celebrations resume. But when Banquo’s ghost appears for a second time, Lady Macbeth is unable to disguise her husband’s ravings. As the guests realize that that their land is now in the grip of criminals, Macbeth decides to visit the witches again (Sangue a me quell’ombra chiede).

  • Act III

    On a stormy night the witches brew their magic potions (Tre volte miagola). Macbeth arrives and asks them to prophesy his destiny. In response they conjure up three apparitions who, in turn, tell him to beware Macduff, that he need fear ‘none born of woman’, and that he will be invincible until Birnam Wood marches on his castle. The witches then summon apparitions of kings, whom Macbeth recognizes as Banquo and his descendants (Oh! Mio terror! dell’ultimo). Macbeth faints and the witches dance round him (Ondine e silfidi), then disappear. Macbeth recovers; Lady Macbeth enters and he tells her what he has seen. They resolve to ex terminate all their enemies (Ora di morte).

  • Act IV

    Scene 1
    Refugees lament the suffering of their oppressed homeland and its wretched people (Patria oppressa! il dolce nome). Macduff is distraught at the murder of his wife and his children (Ah, la paterna mano). Malcolm arrives, leading a troop of English soldiers, and urges Macduff to find comfort in exacting revenge. Together, Malcolm and Macduff rally the refugees, urging them to join forces in attacking Macbeth (La patria tradita).

    Scene 2
    A doctor and lady-in-waiting listen as Lady Macbeth, who has taken to sleepwalking, describes and relives the atrocities she and her husband have committed (Una macchia è qui tuttora). Macbeth awaits the advancing troops (Pietà, rispetto, amore) and hardly reacts when news is brought of his wife’s death. When soldiers announce that Birnam Wood is on the move – that is, English soldiers carrying branches are advancing – he recalls the third apparition’s prophecy.

    Scene 3
    In the ensuing battle, Macbeth and Macduff are brought face to face. The other two prophecies are now fulfilled: Macduff reveals that he was not born naturally but surgically removed from his mother’s womb; in the ensuing fight Macbeth is killed. To the sound of a hymn of victory (Macbeth, Macbeth ov’è?) Malcolm is proclaimed King.

    Harry Fehr



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