Verdi’s dark opera Macbeth, with a libretto by Francesco M. Piave, was not an immediate hit with audiences. For this particular work, Verdi chose a Shakespeare play exploring a serious topic and lacking in lightness or a love theme; the singing depicts a gloomy tale. Yet Verdi created a distinctive work, and director Martin Čičvák stages a lavish production that you can now see at the National Theatre.
After victory in battle, Macbeth and his companion Banquo meet the witches, who prophesise that Macbeth will become the king of Scotland and Banquo the father of the kings of Scotland. Macbeth is elevated to the nobility, and following the advice of his wife, Lady Macbeth, murders the king, Duncan, at Macbeth’s castle. Duncan’s son, Malcolm, however, escapes, which merely arouses suspicion among others. As soon as Macbeth comes to power, he becomes increasingly fearful that he will be deposed and has Banquo murdered. Growing insanity grips Macbeth, and when the ghost of Banquo appears to him, the monarch consults the witches again. According to their prophecy, he would be defeated only by Birnam Wood when it moved, and that only one who is not born of a woman could kill him…
Čičvák’s adaptation brings a contemporary touch to a story that unfolded in the 11th century. The ordinariness of the civilian clothing worn by the actors highlights the timelessness at the heart of this story, i.e. the unquenchable thirst for power. Another theme is the loss of home that the Scottish people endured during Macbeth’s tyranny, and even today, peoples and countless individuals are experiencing the same situation. Underlining the turmoil of the play is a large rock that dominates the stage and is lowered down during the performance. The stone signifies the increasing sickness in the minds of the protagonists. Complementing the singers are the three dancers, who are present throughout the play, performing at times with almost acrobatic qualities, and relieving Macbeth of the formality of classic opera. The procession of the symptoms seen in Macbeth, which are depicted by child actors, are, besides the dance, one of the most visually arresting aspects of the play. Perhaps Macbeth is not one of the most famous works in the opera repertoire but it will really touch the your soul. At the very last minute you will experience a sense of liberation.
The four-act opera is staged in the original Italian, with Czech and English subtitles. The performers are accompanied by the Orchestra and Choir of the State Opera.