Macbeth at Danish Royal Opera Copenhagen – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Giuseppe Verdi|Lyrics: Francesco Maria Piave after Shakespeares drama.
Premiere at Teatro alla Pergola in Florence den 14 mars 1847.Seen the performance: 10.9.2005 Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen
The story is set in Scotland.
In the first act we find Macbeth and Banquo on the battlefield shortly after a battle. They encounter strange witches who startle them with their soothsaying. According toe witches, Macbeth is first to become Lord and then king of Scotland while Banquo is to become forbearer of the future rulers of Scotland. Shortly after, a royal messenger brings news of Macbeth’s peerage. This coincidence makes a deep impression on both Macbeth and Banquo.
At Macbeth’s castle, Dunsinan, Lady Macbeth reeives a letter from her husband telling her of the two prophesies and how one subsequently came true. Shortly after, a messenger brings news of the imminent arrival of King Duncan and Maceth and that the king intends to spend the night at the castle. Lady Macbeth seizes the opportunity to concoct a plan to assassinate the king, thus allowing the fulfilment of the second prophesy.She reveals her murderous plans to Macbeth on his arrival, and he is persuaded to conspire. King Duncan arrives and is shown to his quarters.
In a grand monologue Macbeth wrestles with his own conscience. But his ambitious greed overpoers his conscience and overcomes his cowardliness. When Lady Macbeth gives him the agreed signal he kills the sleeping king. He then flees from the king’s sleeping quarters horrified at what he has just committed. Lady Macbeth tries to persuade him to smear the sleeping guards with the king’s blood so that they will be accused of the murder, but this is too much for Macbeth. Instead Lady Macbeth does for him.Shortly after, there is a knock at the door and they hurry off.
Banquo and Macduff arrive and Macduff goes to wake the king. He is terrified at the gruelling sight and sounds the alarm. Macbeth and his Lady are apparently not quite as dumbstruck as the rest ofhe royal court.
I the second act
Macbeth has become king and now Banquo is the only person to challenge his position. Malcolm, the son of the murdered king,has fled to England on suspicion that he was an accomphce in the murder of his father. Assassins ambush Banquo as he walks through the royal gardens with his son Fleance. Banquo is stabbed and killed while his son Fleance escapes.
A banquet is thrown at the castle and Lady Macbeth entertains the guests with a jolly drinking song. Banquo’s chair is empty.
One of Banquo’s assassins enters and informs Macbeth of the success of their mission. Macbeth is relieved yet still very troubled at the escape of the son. When Macbeth returns to the banquet table he envisages Banquo’s spirit seated as a guest of honour. Horrified at the sight he commands the spirit to disappear. The guests are startled at the king’s behaviour, but Lady Macbeth distracts them by making them join a sing-along. But the ghost nevertheless reappears. Terror-stricken the king yet again orders the ghost to vanish.
I the third act
Macbeth seeks advice from the witches, who in a trance set forth new prophesies.One of them advises him to beware of Macduff, other claims that no man born of a woman will ever kill Macbeth, and a third prophesises that no one will conquer Macbeth before the forest of Birnham wanders to his castle, Dunsinan.
These apparently favourable prophecies prompt him to push his luck, and he asks for more information on Banquo’s descendants. In a vision, eight kings parade past and the last of them, who resembles Banquo, holds a mirror up towards him which he envisages a long succession of rulers.Macbeth faints..
In the fourth act
We encounter the repressed Scots who have had to flee under Macbeth’s terror regime. Macduff grieves for the loss of his wife and child, who were murdered by Macbeth’s assassins. Malcolm – son of King Duncan – arrives with an English army at his command, which he hopes will help him reclaim his father’s throne.When they reach Birnam forest they decide to fell the trees and use them as shields to camouflage their advance towards the castle.
At the castle. Lady Macbeth’s lady-in-waiting has summoned a doctor, who witnesses how Lady Macbeth while sleepwalking is tormented with cruelling images from the night when the king was murdered. She imagines that her hands are soiled in blood, which will not disappear no matter how many times she attempts to wash it off.
In a castle hall Macbeth prepares for the final showdown. He realises bitterly that if he loses the day his people will remember him with nothing but contempt. He receives the news of the death of Lady Macbeth with unperturbed indifference.
Even more disastrous is the news that the forest of Birnam is advancing towards the castle. Macbeth ventures headlong into battle and is confronted by man who came to the world by a Caesarean and was thus not born the way most men are. The last of the prophesies is fulfilled and the story is thus concluded.
Translation: Kim K. Wyon-Sergeant