From sidekick to corpse to ghost

Even after he’s murdered, Banquo has a pivotal role in Verdi’s “Macbeth”

Zaikuan Song, an operatic bass, has a key role in his upcoming Opera Carolina debut. He’ll portray Banquo, the best friend and loyal sidekick to the titular character in Verdi’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The circumspect Banquo is the perfect foil to the overly eager Macbeth, both of whom are generals in the king’s army. Banquo resists the temptations of evil; Macbeth calls on malevolent powers to aid him in his quest for power.

The two friends are together when they encounter the three witches so central to the plot. The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be king. And – when a dubious Banquo asks them to predict his future, too – they foretell that Banquo’s descendants will sit on the throne and rule Scotland.

Once Macbeth, goaded on by Lady Macbeth, kills King Duncan and assumes the throne, he finds he must keep killing to stay one step ahead of suspicion. When Banquo begins wondering if Macbeth was involved in the king’s murder, he becomes his friend’s second victim. Macbeth’s hired henchman attempt to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance, but they manage to kill only one of them. Fleance escapes.

Soon after his death, Banquo’s ghost appears at a banquet the Macbeths give at their castle. (Is it in fact, a ghost or is it the Macbeths’ guilty conscience? You decide.)

Song has performed the roles of Sarastro in The Magic Flute with Opera Grand Rapids and Toledo Opera; Simone in Gianni Schicchi, Figaro (his favorite role so far) in Le Nozze di Figaro; among others. His dream role is a character in another Verdi opera – King Philip II in Don Carlos.

He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing and is currently working toward a doctorate in vocal performance at Michigan State University College of Music in Lansing.

Song said he can’t conceive of a career other than music. Both his parents are musicians, and his father taught music lessons in their home. As a teen, Song discovered he loved not only music but performing on stage – something he’ll get to do again, but for the first time in Charlotte, when Opera Carolina presents Macbeth in November.

See Opera Carolina’s production of Macbeth Nov. 7, 9 and 10. For tickets, call 704.372.1000 or visit