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Shakespeare & Beyond

Verdi's Macbeth: "The opera without a love affair!"

Title page with Macbeth and witches
Title page with Macbeth and witches

Title page with Macbeth and witches

Macbeth posta in musica da Giuseppe Verdi e per grata memoria dedicato al suo amatissimo suocero Antonio Barezzi Riduzione per Pianoforte solo de E. Muzio. [Piano score]. 1847. FOLGER 266549

“L’opera senza amore!” That was the Italians’ reaction to Verdi’s Macbeth when it premiered in Florence in 1847. Despite its immediate success and subsequent popularity, an opera that involved no great love affair struck audiences as an oddity. It was not as if Verdi was known for any blatantly amorous scenes in his operas—quite the contrary. But, without lovers who must go through hurdles to consummate their love, what would opera be like? There is a reason Charles Gounod in 1867 chose to concentrate on the two lovers in Roméo et Juliette and downplayed any aspect of politics from the original. After all, he gave us one of the best adapted endings when Juliet awakes for a few precious minutes in order to sing a sumptuous duet with Romeo before their inevitable death. And a year later, in 1868, French sensibility dictated that Ambroise Thomas needed to valorize Hamlet—few saw anything wrong with the character’s crowning as king at the end of the eponymous opera. As these examples show, bringing Shakespeare to the operatic stage often involved substantial adaptation.


Very interesting. No mention of superstitions involving the play; no jokes (Cheezit, the copse!).

Ned Oldham — October 1, 2019

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are definitely in a strong but coarse love relationship. My favorite version of the Opera is the one with Josephine Barstow and Kostas Paskales. Her sleepwalking scene and his aria about no respect after his death are perfect. No others are.
This is my favorite opera. I think I’ll put it on right now!

Linda Hoff — November 10, 2019