The Met Streams Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’

By Lynne Gray, PhD

Please note this can be seen at

Wednesday, July 22

Verdi’s Macbeth  ~ 2Hrs 35Mins

Starring Maria Guleghina, Dimitri Pittas, Željko Lučić, and John Relyea, conducted by James Levine. From January 12, 2008.

The Met’s second outing for this particular production of Verdi’s Macbeth once again features Željko Lučić in the title role, but instead of Netrebko, Calleja and Pape, we now have Guleghina, Pittas and Relyea. The plot may be focused on the eponymous Scottish king, but Verdi’s operatic take on Shakespeare’s drama features three powerhouse arias for Lady Macbeth (“Vieni t’ affretta,” – urging Macbeth to murder Duncan, “La luce langue,” praising the power of darkness to hide the next murders of Banquo and his son, and “Una macchia è qui tuttora!”– trying to clean the blood spots from her hands as she sleepwalks) making it a signature showpiece for sopranos who are at the very top of their game. Guleghina may not be as well known as Netrebko, but she is very well known for singing powerhouse soprano roles at the Met, including Lady Macbeth and Turandot. Drawing equally on vocal virtuosity and dramatic heft, this version of the chilling tale of intrigue and power will certainly keep you involved for all four murderous acts.

Esteemed Shakespearean director Adrian Noble focuses on the universal themes embraced by both Shakespeare and Verdi. The production highlights the ferocious royal couple’s deep psychological connection as the lynchpin of their greed and treachery. On the questionable side, however, the production has been updated to the mid-20th century with very dark sets, lots of blood, and military uniforms that are hard to make any sense of in the context of a supposed war between Scotland and England – not to mention witches who resemble nothing as much as modern bag ladies out for a little shopping.

This opera was Verdi’s first to be based on a work by Shakespeare and it follows Shakespeare’s story quite closely – borrowing from his famous poetry for the libretto as often as possible. As in the play, the opera begins with witches – rather than just three, however, there is an entire chorus of witches in the opera – singing; however, in three-part harmony. They deliver their well known prophecy to the victorious generals, Macbeth and Banquo – hailing Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (a title he already holds), Thane of Cawdor (a new title he is about to receive), and king “hereafter;” while Banquo is hailed as lesser than Macbeth, but greater – never a king himself, but the progenitor of future kings. When Lady Macbeth hears of the prophecy, she resolves to help its fulfillment sooner rather than later. Her opportunity appears almost immediately when she learns that King Duncan and his son Malcolm will visit Macbeth’s castle that very evening. At least one murder in every act, madness, ghosts, and more enigmatic prophecies from the witches are to come. The first new prophesy advises Macbeth to beware of Macduff; the second tells him that he cannot be harmed by a man ‘born of woman;’ the third that he cannot be conquered till Birnam Wood marches against him. Indulge yourself in this Verdi masterpiece to see exactly how Birnam wood does march against Macbeth and how he is indeed brought down by a man not ‘born’ of woman.

Picture Credits:

1. Russell Thomas as Malcolm, John Relyea as Banquo, Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs as Lady-in-waiting, Dimitri Pittas as Macduff, Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth and Željko Lučić as Macbeth in Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Met, 2008. Photo Credit: Beth Bergman / Metropolitan Opera.

2. Željko Lučić as Macbeth and Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Met, 2008. Photo Credit: Andrea Mohin / The New York Times.

3. Željko Lučić as Macbeth, John Relyea as the Ghost of Banquo and Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Met, 2008. Photo Credit: Beth Bergman / Metropolitan Opera.

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