Macbeth

Verdi adapted one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies into an equally tragic opera. A cautionary tale about what can happen when someone with political ambitions pursues power for its own sake, the story feels both current and timeless.

Macbeth, a noble Scottish general, gets a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Goaded on by his power-hungry wife, he murders the king and assumes the throne. Crazed with guilt and paranoia, Macbeth is forced to commit even more murders to stay one step ahead of suspicion. Lady Macbeth, consumed by her own shame, is slowly driven mad.

Macbeth reminds us: Be careful what you wish for. Not all struggles are worth the price.

Synopsis

ACT I

Returning from a military victory, Macbeth and Banquo are greeted by witches who hail Macbeth not only by his rightful title but also as future king. They hail Banquo as the father of kings.

Macbeth broods over the prophecy, but decides not to lift his hand against the king. Banquo reflects that the prophecies could be a trap leading to destruction.

Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth relating these events. She greets with delight the news that King Duncan intends to spend the night at their castle. When Macbeth arrives, she readily convinces him to murder the king.

Late at night, with the king and his entourage asleep, Macbeth has a hallucination of a dagger in the air before murdering the king and his attendants. Filled with terror and guilt, Lady Macbeth derides him and tells him to wash his hands and assume an appearance of innocence.

Knocks at the gate herald the arrival of Macduff and Banquo. Macduff goes to wake the king but must announce his murder instead. The news provokes cries for revenge from everyone, including Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

ACT II

Macbeth confesses to his wife that he is brooding over the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s descendants will be king. He resolves to have him killed. Lady Macbeth relishes the thought that their claim to the throne will soon be unchallenged, even if the cost is more blood. Banquo’s forebodings are fulfilled when assassins kill him. But his son, Fleance, escapes.

A banquet is in progress, and Lady Macbeth invites the guests to drink. One of the assassins reports to Macbeth that Banquo has been killed, but Fleance has escaped. Macbeth muses to his guests that Banquo is absent. He is about to take Banquo’s seat when he is confronted by Banquo’s ghost, which only he can see. The guests are shocked by the sight of their king’s madness. Macduff suspects Macbeth’s hand in Banquo’s murder and decides to flee Scotland.

ACT III

The witches are preparing to summon Hecate when Macbeth appears, demanding to know his fate. They summon spirits that tell him first to beware of Macduff and next that he cannot be killed by anyone born of woman. Lastly, they tell him he cannot be killed until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.

When he asks if Banquo’s children will be kings, he is shown a vision of eight kings with Banquo indicating that they are his issue. Macbeth faints, and the witches vanish. Lady Macbeth enters and convinces him to kill Fleance. He agrees and tells her he will also have Macduff and his family put to death. They swear bloodshed on anyone who opposes them.

ACT IV

The refugees of Macbeth’s tyranny lament the state of their homeland. Macduff mourns the death of his family. Prince Malcolm orders the soldiers to take branches from Birnam Wood as camouflage and exhorts them to follow him to free Scotland. Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep, reliving the murders for which she is guilty, and trying to wash the blood from her hands.
Faced with a stream of desertions, Macbeth takes comfort from the witches’ latest prophecies. He is weary of life. News of his wife’s death confirms his feelings about the futility of existence. When soldiers announce that Birnam Wood is moving towards his castle, he realizes that the witches have deceived him, but is determined to die fighting.

The scene changes to a plain where the battle rages. On the battlefield, Macbeth confronts Macduff. When Macbeth boasts that none born of woman can kill him, Macduff replies he was born unnaturally, by Caesarean section. He kills the tyrant and hails Prince Malcolm as king as the people join in thanksgiving.

About the Composer

GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813–1901)

The Italian composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born in La Roncole in October 1813. When he was still a child, Verdi’s parents moved to Busseto, where the future composer’s education was enhanced by visits to the large library at the local Jesuit school.

Displaying considerable talent from a young age, he became assistant organist at the small local church when he was just 10. At 13, he was an assistant conductor of the Busseto Orchestra and an organist at the town church.  In 1836, Verdi married Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his benefactor, Antonio Barezzi.

Verdi went to Milan when he was 20 to continue his studies. He took private lessons in counterpoint while attending the opera, as well as concerts of, specifically, German music.

His first successful opera, Oberto, opened at La Scala in 1839. However, his next opera, the comedy, Un Giorno di Regno (King for a Day), was a failure. To add tragedy to insult, Verdi lost his wife and two young children to illness within the same year, and the despondent composer resolved to give up music altogether. The manager of La Scala persuaded him to persevere and write his next opera, Nabucco, which premiered in 1842 to great acclaim, securing Verdi’s reputation as a major figure in the music world.

Verdi began working on Macbeth in 1846. The main reason he chose the Shakespeare tragedy was the availability of baritone Felice Varesi for the title role.

Writing to his librettist Francesco Maria Piave, Verdi made it clear how important Macbeth was to him: “… This tragedy is one of the greatest creations of man … If we can’t make something great out of it, let us at least try to do something out of the ordinary.”  Their version follows the play closely, but instead of three witches, as in the play, there is a large chorus of witches.

As early as 1852, Verdi was asked to revise Macbeth in Paris. Again in 1864, Verdi was asked to provide additional music – a ballet and a final chorus – for a production planned at the Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial du Châtelet in Paris. The new version was first performed in April 1865 in a French translation. The opera was presented at La Scala in the autumn of 1865.

Opera Carolina’s production uses sections from each version, principally from the Paris revision, including Lady Macbeth’s dynamic aria La luce langue and the apparition scene. Macbeth’s final aria of remorse, Mal per me, comes just before the triumphal final chorus.

 
Upon Verdi’s death in 1901, there were scenes of national mourning for the man who was a great musician, philanthropist and Italian patriot. At the funeral, the 28,000 people who lined the streets of Milan broke out softly and spontaneously into Va pensiero, the great chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Nabucco – a song which had become Italy’s unofficial national anthem.

Verdi is buried alongside his second wife, his first wife and their young children at Casa di Riposo in Milan, a retirement home for musicians which Verdi founded and endowed personally.

Production

James Meena

CONDUCTOR

Ivan Stefanutti

DIRECTOR & Designer

Atelier Nicolao

Costumes

Ease into Opera with the Student Night Experience

Student Night is an unforgettable outing for K-12 students, families and traditional school and homeschool groups. With low cost tickets, some of the best seats in the Belk Theater, and timeless tales set to incredible music, Student Night is the perfect cultural experience for the Charlotte region’s youth!

EXCLUSIVE STUDENT NIGHT FEATURES:

  • Pre-Opera performances by local students
  • Q&A with cast members at intermission
  • English supertitles above the stage
  • Youth Guides to help you make the most of your evening
  • Great prices, great seats, and of course – great music!

Canadian-American soprano Othalie Graham continues to receive critical acclaim throughout North America and is widely known for her interpretations of the title roles in Turandot and Aida and her commitment to Wagnerian repertoire. The Boston Globe noted that, in her interpretation of Turandot, Graham’s “timbre and power were thrilling – steely ring from top to bottom – and her path from imperiousness to passion was convincing,” while Opera News described her as “a vocally secure Turandot, her gleaming tones well suited to the ice princess’s misanthropic resolve.”

Graham’s 2019-2020 season includes her role debut as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth with Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina, performing the title role in Turandot with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, Serena in Porgy and Bess with the Harrisburg Symphony, performances as featured soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and Delaware Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem with the Reading Symphony Orchestra and Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra, and a performance as the featured guest at the Traverse Symphony Wagner Gala.

Recent performances have included the title role in Turandot with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led by Jader Bignamini, part of Maestro Leonard Slatkin’s farewell concert; the title role in Aida with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, and at the Teatro Greco di Siracusa in Sicily with Marcello Giordani; the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos with Festival Opera; covering Elektra at The Teatro San Carlo Napoli; the role of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West with Nashville Opera and Indianapolis Opera. Recent concert highlights include all-Wagner programs in Mexico City at Sala Nezahualcóyotl and at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Lima, Peru, and with the Washington Chorus at The Kennedy Center; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with The Philadelphia Orchestra; the Verdi Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra; Serena in Porgy and Bess with Toledo Opera, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and Jacksonville Symphony; Isolde in Tristan und Isolde in Zagreb, Croatia and with the Washington National Chorus at The Kennedy Center in DC; and the Britten War Requiem with the Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.

Graham has performed the title role of Turandot with Teatro Cervantes de Málaga in Spain, Gran Teatro Nacional del Perú with the Asociación Cultural Romanza, Edmonton Opera, Opera Carolina, Orquesta Filhamónica de la UNAM, Opera de Nuevo León, Boston’s Chorus Pro Musica, Arizona Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Columbus, Opera Delaware, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pensacola Opera, Westfield Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Opera, and Knoxville Opera.

Additional appearances have included the title role of Aida for the inaugural performance of the Istanbul International Opera Festival; the title role in Tosca with Festival Opera; and the title role in Elektra at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. In the Wagnerian repertoire, Graham’s notable roles also include Senta in Der Fliegender Holländer, Brünnhilde and Sieglinde in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser.

Other concert engagements include Elijah with Bryn Terfel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Washington National Chorus at The Kennedy Center; performances with the Lima Symphony and Plainfield Symphony; Brünnhilde excerpts from Die Walküre for the L’Opéra de Montréal gala; a New York recital debut with the Liederkranz Society; Isolde in Tristan und Isolde with the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra in
California; a featured appearance with Eve Queler at the Dahesh Museum of Art; and opera galas for Pacific Opera Victoria, Vancouver Opera, Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa, and Canada’s Oakville Symphony.

Graham is featured on the Brampton Arts Walk of Fame in her hometown of Brampton, Ontario, honoring those who have achieved excellence in the arts and entertainment industry. She previously was the first-place winner of the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition in the Wagner Division, the first-place winner of the Joyce Dutka Competition, a recipient of a Sullivan Foundation Grant, a first-place winner in the Wagner Division of the Liederkranz Competition, winner of the Jean Chalmers prize in the Canadian Music Competition, winner of the Edward Johnson Competition, and first place recipient of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques Competition. For more information, visit www.othaliegrahamsoprano.com.

Jonathan Kaufman’s career began at the young age of five when he recorded the Burl Ives classic “Lavender Blue” for his mother via a boombox recorder. While the cassette of this treasure is sadly lost, it is safe to assume this was the catalyst that brought music to the forefront of Mr. Kaufman’s life. Growing up in a quaint, rather autumnally beautiful suburb of Pennsylvania’s capital city, music was an ever-present tradition in Kaufman’s childhood. Whether it was his father playing blues harmonica, his mother cheerfully dabbling at piano renditions of “Musetta’s Waltz” and “White Christmas,” or himself utilizing the grandeur of bathroom acoustics, music emanated from nearly every room in the house. Although the boombox recording phase was short-lived, the desire to learn and play music was not. Throughout his schooling, Mr. Kaufman continued his musical studies through a variety of media; however, the beckoning to pursue a degree in music stemmed from a deep-rooted love of choral music. Accepted into the voice department of Millersville University, studies with the immensely wonderful Ms. Kristin Sims began, which led to the discovery of Mr. Kaufman’s operatic voice. Nearing the end of his baccalaureate studies, Kaufman made his professional debut as Rinuccio in Opera Lancaster’s production of Gianni Schicchi (Puccini). This performance, showcasing Mr. Kaufman’s ability to produce entrancing vocal power and lyrical melodies, is why The Intelligencer of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, called his voice “brilliant and endearing.” Subsequent engagements including Fabrizzio in The Light in the Piazza (Guettel) and Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni) led Mr. Kaufman to make his international debut with State Opera Varna, Bulgaria, as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte (Mozart).

An opportunity to relocate to North Carolina and study with renowned international tenor
John Fowler led to debuts with Little Opera Company of Charlotte as Alfred in Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss II) and Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Opera Experience Southeast. The 2018-2019 season saw Mr. Kaufman debut the role of Rodolfo in a summer production Puccini’s La Bohème with Little Opera Company of Charlotte, reprise the role with the Opera Theatre of Central Piedmont Community College in the fall, and again with Opera Wilmington, NC, in the summer of 2019. Mr. Kaufman resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife Stephanie—a well-respected timpanist and percussionist in the region.