Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Macbeth 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, March 24, 1:00 P.M.

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A scene from Adrian Noble's Metropolitan Opera production of Macbeth: in the banquet hall, above and inset, Lady Macbeth is unable to calm her husband when he has a vision of the dead Banquo (John Relyea as Banquo, Željko Lučić as Macbeth, Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth)
© Beth Bergman 2012
The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation and 
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media, 
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.


Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Macbeth      baritone, THOMAS HAMPSON
Banquo      bass, GÜNTHER GROISSBÖCK
Lady Macbeth      soprano, NADJA MICHAEL
Servant      bass-bar., EVAN HUGHES
Malcolm      tenor, RICHARD COX
Macduff      tenor, DIMITRI PITTAS
Lady-in-Waiting      soprano, CLAUDIA WAITE
Fleance      actor, TBA
      bass-bar., DONOVAN SINGLETARY
Herald      bass, BRANDON MAYBERRY
Doctor      bass-bar., JAMES COURTNEY
Warrior      baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD
Bloody Child      soprano, JENNIFER ZETLAN
Crowned Child      soprano, HAERAN HONG


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
      and Children's Chorus

Production: Adrian Noble
Set and costume designer: Mark Thompson
Lighting designer: Jean Kalman
Choreographer: Sue Lefton
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Joan Dornemann,
Paul Nadler, Robert Morrison,
      Carrie-Ann Matheson
Assistant stage directors: Gregory Anthony
      Fortner, Gina Lapinski
Prompter: Joan Dornemann
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Fight director: Scott Ramsay
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir

Production a gift of
      Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Montrone
Additional funding from
      Mr. and Mrs. William R. Miller,
      the Hermione Foundation, and
      The Gilbert S. Kahn and John J. Noffo
      Kahn Endowment Fund

THE SCENES  Timings (ET) 
ACT I 1:00–
      Sc. 1A battlefield 
      Sc. 2Macbeth's castle 
ACT II –2:29
      Sc. 1Macbeth's castle 
      Sc. 2Outside the castle 
      Sc. 3The banquet hall in the castle 
ACT IIIThe banquet hall3:03–
ACT IV –4:03
      Sc. 1On the Scottish border 
      Sc. 2Macbeth's castle  
      Sc. 3Birnam Wood 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
      William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni, 
      Elena Park
For more information on the broadcasts, 
      please visit
Send quiz questions to: 
      Metropolitan Opera Quiz, 
      Metropolitan Opera
      30 Lincoln Center
      New York, NY 10023
      or e-mail
This performance is also being broadcast live 
      on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM
      channel 74.


ACT I. Macbeth and Banquo, leaders of the Scottish army, meet a group of witches who prophesy the future. They address Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, then tell Banquo that he will be the father of kings. The two men try to learn more, but the witches vanish. Messengers arrive with news that Duncan, the current king of Scotland, has made Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. The first part of the witches' prediction has come true.

In Macbeth's castle, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband telling her of the events that have just transpired. She resolves to follow her ambitions. A servant announces that Duncan will soon arrive at the castle, and when Macbeth enters, his Lady tells him that they must kill the king. Duncan arrives. Macbeth has a vision of a dagger, then leaves to commit the murder. On his return, he tells his wife how the act has frightened him, and she replies that he needs more courage. They both leave as Banquo enters with Macduff, a nobleman, who discovers the murder. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, feigning horror, join the others in condemning the murder.

ACT II. Macbeth has become king. Duncan's son, Malcolm, is suspected of having killed his father and has fled to England. Worried about the prophecy that Banquo's children will rule, Macbeth and his wife now plan to kill him and his son, Fleance, as well. As Macbeth leaves to prepare the double murder, Lady Macbeth hopes that it will finally make the throne secure.

Outside the castle, assassins wait for Banquo, who appears with his son, warning the boy of strange forebodings. Banquo is killed, but Fleance escapes.

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Željko Lučić as Macbeth and Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth
© Johan Elbers 2012

Lady Macbeth welcomes the court to the banquet hall and sings a drinking song, while Macbeth receives news that Banquo is dead but his son has escaped. About to take Banquo's seat at the table, Macbeth has a terrifying vision of the dead man accusing him. His wife is unable to calm her unsettled husband, and the courtiers wonder about the king's strange behavior. Macduff vows to leave the country, which is now ruled by criminals.

ACT III. The witches gather again, and Macbeth visits them, demanding more prophecies. Apparitions warn him to beware of Macduff but assure him that "no man of woman born" can harm him, and that he will be invincible until Birnam Wood marches on his castle. In another vision, he sees a procession of future kings, followed by Banquo. Horrified, Macbeth collapses. The witches disappear, and his wife finds him. They resolve to kill Macduff and his family.

ACT IV. On the English border, Macduff has joined the Scottish refugees. His wife and children have been killed. Malcolm appears with British troops and leads them to invade Scotland.

Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, haunted by the horrors of what she and her husband have done.

In another room in the castle, Macbeth awaits the arrival of his enemies. He realizes that he will never live to a peaceful old age. Messengers bring news that Lady Macbeth has died, and that Birnam Wood appears to be moving. English soldiers appear, camouflaged with its branches. Confronting Macbeth, Macduff reveals that he was not born naturally but had a Caesarean birth. He kills Macbeth and proclaims Malcolm king of Scotland.

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Thomas Hampson, who sings
Macbeth in this month's
Met broadcast, in Lyric Opera of
Chicago's 2010 production of Verdi's

© Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago 2012


This opera, Verdi's tenth, remains noteworthy among the composer's early works as the first manifestation of his profound love for Shakespeare and his first attempt at music drama. In Macbeth, his innate genius for subtlety of mood asserted itself for the first time, in spite of frequent reliance on conventional devices.

The composer sketched the first draft of the libretto before turning it over to Francesco Maria Piave for verses. The resulting text stays close to the play, though much cutting and some transposition of order were needed to suit operatic needs. Still not satisfied, Verdi turned to the poet/aristocrat Andrea Maffei to rewrite the Witches' chorus and the sleepwalking scene. Of all Verdi's operas of which there are two or more versions (Don Carlos boasts three), Macbeth reflects some of the most significant changes the composer made. Nearly twenty years after the opera's 1847 premiere, Verdi revised the work extensively for the Paris Opera (1865), adding much new music that lends the opera the dark, burnished luster of his middle period.

Macbeth in Verdi's setting first took to the stage at Teatro della Pergola, Florence, on March 14, 1847. Felice Varesi played the title role, with Marianna Barbieri–Nini as his Lady and the composer serving as music director. Paradoxically, Verdi's revised Macbeth — now considered to be an improvement upon the original — was a failure at its premiere, on April 21, 1865, in Paris.

Macbeth entered the Met repertory on February 5, 1959, in a staging by Carl Ebert designed by Caspar Neher. Leonard Warren and Leonie Rysanek headed the first-night cast, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. The Met's second Macbeth production, by Peter Hall, bowed on November 18, 1982, with James Levine pacing Sherrill Milnes and Renata Scotto. The current Met staging, by Adrian Noble, had its premiere on October 22, 2007, with Levine conducting and Željko Lučić and Maria Guleghina as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. 

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Macduff, surrounded by his fellow refugees from Scotland, mourns his murdered wife and children (Dimitri Pittas as Macduff).
© Beth Bergman 2012


Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's Verdi (Oxford) remains the best biography of the composer. For specific discussion of Macbeth, try Volume II of Julian Budden's The Operas of Verdi (Oxford), which is out of print but well worth hunting down, or the ENO Guide to Verdi's opera (Calder/Riverrun). 

Claudio Abbado's corruscating 1976 reading (DG) gathers many of the stars of a well-received La Scala production from the previous year; Shirley Verrett, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Plácido Domingo, all in brilliant form, head the cast. Under Riccardo Muti's baton, Sherrill Milnes creates a stunning Macbeth (EMI), remarkable for its intelligence and power; Fiorenza Cossotto limns a particularly forthright coconspirator. Mara Zampieri and Renato Bruson deliver vivid work for Giuseppe Sinopoli (Philips). Erich Leinsdorf's Macbeth (RCA) preserves the maestro's teamwork with Leonie Rysanek and Leonard Warren, the principals of the opera's Met premiere in 1959.

On DVD, Maria Guleghina strikes sparks with the Macbeth of Željko Lučić in Adrian Noble's current Met production; James Levine conducts (EMI). Franz Welser-Möst paces Thomas Hampson and Paoletta Marrocu as the Thane of Cawdor and his Lady in David Pountney's Zurich Opera staging from 2006 (Image). Glyndebourne's 1972 Macbeth, conducted by John Pritchard, features authoritative performances by Kostas Paskalis and Josephine Barstow as the Macbeths and James Morris as Banquo (Arthaus). spacer 

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