A deadly destiny
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
About the show
An opera in four acts
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. First performed Teatro della Pergola, Florence on 14 March 1847
Scene 1: A heath
On a battlefield, victorious generals Macbeth and Banco meet a group of witches. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (a title he already holds by inheritance), Thane of Cawdor, and king ‘hereafter’. Banco is greeted as never a king himself, but the father of a dynasty of future kings. The witches vanish, and messengers from the king appear naming Macbeth Thane of Cawdor, as the former holder of that title has been executed as a traitor. In a duet, Macbeth and Banco muse that the first of the witches’ prophecies has been fulfilled, and what this may signify for their futures.
Scene 2: Macbeth’s castle
Lady Macbeth receives a letter from her husband telling of the witches’ prophecy. When Macbeth returns she urges him to take the opportunity to kill King Duncan, who has come to stay. Macbeth is emboldened to commit the deed, but afterwards is filled with horror. Disgusted at his cowardice, Lady Macbeth completes the crime, incriminating the sleeping guards. Macduff arrives and discovers the murder. He rouses the castle while Banco also bears witness to the fact of Duncan’s murder.
Scene 1: A room in the castle
Macbeth is now king: Duncan’s son Malcolm has fled the country, under suspicion for his father’s murder: but Macbeth is still disturbed by the prophecy that Banco, not he, will found a royal line. To prevent this he tells his wife that he will have both Banco and his son murdered as they come to a banquet.
Scene 2: Outside the castle
A gang of murderers murder Banco, but his son Fleanzio escapes.
Scene 3: A dining hall in the castle
Macbeth and his wife welcome their dinner guests. Banco’s death is reported to Macbeth, but when he returns to the table the ghost of Banco is sitting in his place. Macbeth raves at the ghost and the horrified guests believe he has gone mad, despite Lady Macbeth’s attempts to deflect their suspicions. Macduff resolves to leave the country, as the dinner descends into chaos.
The witches’ cave
Macbeth visits the witches who conjure up three apparitions for him. The first advises him 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 until Birnam Wood marches against him. Macbeth is then shown the ghost of Banco and his descendants, eight future Kings of Scotland, verifying the original prophecy.
A herald announces the arrival of the Queen. Macbeth tells his wife about his encounter with the witches and they resolve to track down and kill Banco’s son, as well as Macduff and his family.
Scene 1: Near the border between England and Scotland
Scottish refugees congregate near Birnam Wood. Macduff is determined to avenge the deaths of his wife and children at the hands of Macbeth, and is joined by Malcolm and the English army. Malcolm orders each soldier to cut a branch from a tree in the Wood and carry it as they attack Macbeth’s army.
Scene 2: Macbeth’s castle
A doctor and a servant observe the Queen as she walks in her sleep, wringing her hands and raving about the deaths of both Duncan and Banco, and even about the deaths of Macduff’s family.
Scene 3: The battlefield
Macbeth has learned that an army of Scottish rebels backed by England is advancing against him. He receives the news of the Queen’s death with indifference. Rallying his troops he learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle. Macduff pursues and fights Macbeth, telling him that he was not ‘born of woman’ but ‘ripped’ from his mother’s womb. Mortally wounded, Macbeth proclaims that trusting in prophecies has caused his downfall. He dies, while Macduff’s men proclaim Malcolm to be the new King.
Jung Soo Yun
Northern Chamber Orchestra