Macbeth in Minnesota

Macbeth-Minnesota

MINNESOTA OPERA PRESENTS:

Macbeth

Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and Andrea Maffei
after the tragedy by William Shakespeare (1606)

Performances

  • Sat. 1/25/14 at 7:30pm
  • Tue. 1/28/14 at 7:30pm
  • Thu. 1/30/14 at 7:30pm
  • Sat. 2/1/14 at 8:00pm
  • Sun. 2/2/14 at 2pm

Power corrupts.

Verdi’s dark-hued Macbeth examines the corrosive consequences of tyranny. At the urging of his scheming wife, Macbeth murders the king to claim the crown. His desperate and deadly reign of terror devastates his country and hastens his doom in this masterwork based upon Shakespeare’s classic thriller.

Sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.

Synopsis

Act IScene one – A forest  Returning from battle Macbeth and Banquo happen upon a coven of witches that makes three rather unsettling predictions: they promise Macbeth his noble rank shall rise from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor, and then he shall be king; to Banquo they foretell that kings shall number among his descendants. The witches vanish, leaving the bewildered Macbeth and Banquo to consider what they’ve witnessed. Messengers inform them of the treasonous Thane of Cawdor’s recent execution – Macbeth has been named his successor. Already dark thoughts of ambition begin to cloud his judgment.Scene two – A hall in the castle  Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband detailing his unusual experiences and the swift fulfillment of the first prophesy. She draws the conclusion that their next step must be to usurp the throne. A servant informs his mistress that King Duncan plans to spend the night as their guest.

Late into the night, the Macbeths hash out their deadly scheme. After his wife gives the signal that all have retired to bed, Macbeth murders the sleeping Duncan. His remorse is pronounced, but Lady Macbeth holds strong, returning to the scene of the crime and planting the bloodstained dagger among the king’s sleeping bodyguards to implicate them. As dawn breaks Macduff and Banquo discover the king has been assassinated.

Act II

Scene one – A room in the castle  Duncan’s son, Malcolm, has fled Scotland. As a result he is now suspected of the regicide. Macbeth, now crowned king, is still unsettled by the witches’ third prediction – that Banquo’s children shall one day rule. He and his wife concur more blood must flow.

Scene two – The castle park.  Assassins descend on Banquo and his young son, Fleance. Banquo is killed, but Fleance manages to escape.

Scene three – A magnificent banquet hall  A celebration is held in Macbeth’s honor, and Lady Macbeth leads the toast. An assassin quietly confirms that Banquo has been killed, but Fleance remains at large. To his guests, Macbeth notes Banquo’s absence and makes the noble gesture to seat himself at his place. He is visibly horrified to find Banquo’s ghost already seated there. The guests are shocked by the strange behavior, and Lady Macbeth demands he control himself. To divert everyone’s attention she strikes up the drinking song again, but the ghost returns, and Macbeth loses his composure. Macduff grows suspicious.

Act III

A dark cave  Regrouped for the sabbath, the witches prepare an unearthly brew. Specters and demons dance as Hecate, goddess of the night and of sorcery, materializes. Macbeth returns in search of more answers. The powers of darkness yield an apparition warning him to beware Macduff. The second spirit, a child, advises him not to fear any man born of a woman. A final apparition assures him not to worry until Birnam Wood moves against him. Macbeth is reassured but insists on knowing the fate of Banquo’s son. The witches refuse to answer, but Banquo’s progeny is displayed in a parade of specters, followed by the reappearance of Banquo’s ghost. The witches and spirits vanish as Macbeth faints.

Macbeth confides the strange happenings to his wife. Recognizing Macduff as the most serious threat, they agree Lady Macduff and her children must die.

Act IV

Scene one – A deserted place on the Scottish border  A chorus of Scottish refugees bewail the plight of their oppressed country under Macbeth’s tyrannous rule. Macduff agonizes over the slaughter of his wife and children. Malcolm arrives with English soldiers. He instructs the army to camouflage themselves with branches from the forest.

Scene two – A room in the castle  The queen’s lady-in-waiting confers with a doctor. Together they observe the strange nocturnal activities of Lady Macbeth. She enters as if in a trance, and while trying to wash imagined blood from her hands, she exposes the hideous details of her crime.

Scene three – A room in the castle  Macbeth has been informed of the uprising against him. In light of the witches’ promises, he is certain the battle will be won. He receives news of his wife’s suicide but is barely moved. Yet his confidence is shaken by reports of Birnam Wood advancing on the castle.

Macduff confronts Macbeth. The king’s belief in the final prophecy is crushed when Macduff reveals that he was not born of a woman the usual way but “… from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.” Malcolm enters with soldiers and women of the castle. Macduff informs them that Macbeth has been slain. All hail Malcolm as their new king.

Approximate run time is 2 hours 48 minutes, including one intermission.

Approximate run time is 2 hours 48 minutes, including one intermission.

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ah-macbeth-minnesota

Giuseppe Verdi

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 Giuseppe Verdi

b Le Roncole, October 9 or 10, 1813; Milan, January 27, 1901

Giuseppe Verdi was born in Le Roncole, a small village in the Duchy of Parma. Contrary to the composer’s claim that he was of illiterate peasants, Carlo and Luigia Verdi both came from families of landowners and traders – together they ran a tavern and grocery store. As a youth Verdi’s natural fascination with music was enhanced by his father’s purchase of an old spinet piano. By the age of nine he was substituting as organist at the town church, a position he would later assume and hold for a number of years. Carlo Verdi’s contact with Antonio Barezzi, a wealthy merchant and music enthusiast from nearby Busseto, led to Giuseppe’s move to the larger town and to a more formalized music education. Lodging in his benefactor’s home, Verdi gave singing and piano lessons to Barezzi’s daughter, Margherita, who later became the composer’s first wife.

Encouraged by his benefactor, Verdi applied to the Milan Conservatory, his tuition to be funded in part by a scholarship for poor children and the balance to be paid by Barezzi. The Conservatory rejected his application because of his age and uneven piano technique, but Verdi remained in Milan under the tutorship of Vincenzo Livigna, a maestro concertatore at La Scala. After making a few useful contacts in Milan, writing a number of small compositions and some last-minute conducting substitutions, Verdi was offered a contract by La Scala for an opera, Rocester. It was never performed, nor does the score appear to exist. It is commonly believed that much of the music was incorporated into his first staged opera, Oberto. The score also may have been destroyed with the composer’s other juvenilia as Verdi had requested in his will.

Oberto achieved modest success and Verdi was offered another commission from La Scala for a comedy. Unfortunately, by this time the composer had suffered great personal loss – in the space of two years his wife and two small children had all died. Verdi asked to be released from his contract, but La Scala’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli (probably with good intentions) insisted that he complete the score. Written under a dark cloud, Il regno di giorno failed in the theater, and Verdi withdrew from any further engagements. It was due to a chance meeting with Merelli (with a new libretto in tow) that led to his return to the stage. Nabucco was a huge success and catapulted Verdi’s career forward.

Italian theaters at this time were in constant need of new works. As a result, competent composers were in demand and expected to compose at an astonishing rate. Both Rossini and Donizetti had set the standard and Verdi was required to adapt to their pace. These became his “anni di galera” (years as a “galley slave”) – between 1842 and 1853 he composed eleven new operas, often while experiencing regular bouts of ill-health. His style progressed from treating grandiose historical subjects (as was the custom of the day) to those involving more intimate, personal relationships. This transition is crowned by three of his most popular works: Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata.

Toward the end of the 1840s Verdi considered an early retirement, as his predecessor Rossini had done. He purchased land near Busseto once belonging to his ancestors and soon began to convert the farmhouse into a villa (Sant’Agata) for himself and his new companion, Giuseppina Strepponi, a retired soprano who had championed his early works (including Nabucco, for which she had sung the leading female role). Verdi had renewed their friendship a few years before; when Verdi and Strepponi were in Paris they openly lived together as a couple. After their return to Italy, however, this arrangement scandalized the denizens of Busseto, necessitating a move to the country.

As Verdi became more interested in farming and less involved in the frustrating politics of the theater, his pace slowed – only six new works were composed over the next 18 years. His style began to change as well, from the traditional “numbers opera” to a more free-flowing, dramatically truthful style. Some of his greatest pieces belong to this era (Simon Boccanegra, Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino, Don Carlos), which concluded with what most thought was his swan song, the spectacular grand opera Aida.

Following Aida, Verdi firmly stated he had retired for good. He was now devoted to Sant’Agata, and to revising and remounting several earlier works, pausing briefly to write a powerful Requiem (1874) to commemorate the passing of Italian poet and patriot Alessandro Manzoni. Coaxed out of his retreat by a lifelong love of Shakespeare, the septuagenarian composer produced Otello and Falstaff to great acclaim.

Verdi’s final years were focused on two philanthropic projects, a hospital in the neighboring town of Villanova, and a rest home for aged and indigent musicians in Milan, the Casa di Riposo. Giuseppina (who Verdi had legally married in 1859) died in 1897, and Verdi’s own passing several years later was an occasion of national mourning. One month after a small private funeral at the municipal cemetery, his remains were transferred to Milan and interred at the Casa di Riposo. Two hundred thousand people lined the streets as the “Va, pensiero” chorus from Nabucco was sung by an eight-hundred-person choir led by conductor Arturo Toscanini.

Cast & Creative Team

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Creative Team

Conductor Michael Christie
Stage Director Joel Ivany
Senic Coordinator Camellia Koo
Costume Designer Camellia Koo
Lighting Designer Jason Hand
Projections/Video Sean Niewenhuis

The Cast

Macbeth, general in the Scottish army Greer Grimsley
Lady Macbeth, his wife Brenda Harris
Macduff, Lord of Fife Harold Meers
Banquo, general in the Scottish army Alfred Walker
Malcolm, son to King Duncan John Robert Lindsey
Lady-in-waiting to Lady Macbeth Shannon Prickett
A doctor Christian Zaremba
Three apparitions Christie Hageman, Rebecca Krynski, tba
A herald Matthew Opitz
 
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One Response to Macbeth in Minnesota

  1. Pingback: Macbeth, the power of evil and the evil of power. | We dream of things that never were and say: "Why not?"

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