- Giuseppe Verdi. Opera in four acts. 1847.
- Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after the play by Shakespeare.
- First performance at the Teatro della Pergola, Florence, on 14th March 1847.
|Banco (Banquo), his fellow-general ||bass|
|Duncano (Duncan), King of Scotland ||silent rôle|
|Lady Macbeth, Macbeth's wife ||soprano|
|Lady-in-waiting to Lady Macbeth ||mezzo-soprano|
|Macduff, lord of Fife ||tenor|
|Malcolm, Duncan's son ||tenor|
|Fleanzio (Fleance), Banquo's son ||silent rôle|
|Ghost of Banco (Banquo) ||silent rôle|
Shakespeare's three witches become a chorus of witches who greet Macbeth and Banquo with
their prophecies. Lady Macbeth reads the letter from her husband that announces the coming of
Duncan, who is murdered as he sleeps. The first act ends with Macduff's announcement of the
murder. In the second act Macbeth, jealous of the future prophesied for Banquo's posterity, goes on
to procure the murder of Banquo, whose ghost appears to haunt him. The third act brings the
witches back, with an additional ballet for the French version of the opera given in Paris in 1865.
The witches summon up apparitions that tell Macbeth what lies in store for him. The fourth act
opens on the English border, where Malcolm leads a force against Macbeth. This is followed by the
sleep-walking scene for Lady Macbeth, herself a prey, like her husband, to conscience. Malcolm's
soldiers, camouflaged under branches, bring Birnam Wood to Dunsinane, as the witches had
foretold. A cry of women marks the death of Lady Macbeth and her husband is killed in single
combat with Macduff.
Verdi made a number of changes in Macbeth, the first of his Shakespearean operas, for the
French version of 1865, in particular the necessary addition of a ballet at the start of the third act. In
general the action follows Shakespeare, with the obvious necessary abridgements and omissions.
The prelude makes use of material from the opera, in particular that associated with the witches in
the third act and the famous sleep-walking scene of the fourth. Lady Macbeth's letter scene, Nel dì
della vittoria (In the day of success) presents her as an immediately powerful figure. The exiled
Scots under Malcolm echo patriotic sentiment in Italy in their Patria oppressa (Our country
oppressed), while Macduff laments the reported murder of his wife and children in Ah, la paterna
mano (Ah, a father's hand). Lady Macbeth appears in the first great sleep-walking scene of Italian
opera, Una macchia (A spot), observed by her lady-in-waiting and the doctor. In the last scene,
Macbeth, nearing his end, regrets his lack of those accompaniments of age, Pietà, rispetto, amore
(Kindness, respect, love). The French version of the work ends with a hymn of victory, instead of
Macbeth's final despair and death.